On the latest instalment of the sUAS News podcast, we take a look at potential inroads to the new political landscape coming to Washington D.C. with guests Jeffery Anders and Rob Thompson.
Without a doubt, the U.S. faces a totally different mindset and way of doing business. President-elect Trump has made his pick for Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao, and so we have a good idea about direction. We also know that Mr. Trump tried his hand at running an airline, Trump Shuttle, as well as a scheduled helicopter service. He also owns several other aircraft besides the Boeing 757 emblazoned with a big gold TRUMP made famous on the 2016 campaign trail.
Feedback from the community would infer that some folks are dismayed, wondering how the heck we got this regulation after the “visionaries” assured us that the FAA would never regulate drones or the RC hobby. Boy howdy, some of those visionaries were so far off the mark (Part 101) it cost them their companies and totalled their credibility. Not only did folks not head the warning not to use the nomenclature “aircraft” in the reauthorization they did not understand the ramifications. Some seemingly don’t understand or care about regulation, as is the Silicon Valley model. Disruption is a euphemism for skirt the rules and regulation as long as you can.
Many of us got started in UAS because of the opportunities and efficiencies drones offer. Is the shine off the apple? The handwriting on the wall is reading “Welcome to aviation!” So, where are we going from here and what do we do in 2017? In conversations leading up to the podcast, I asked Rob Thompson his opinions on the community reactions to Part 107.
“In the events leading up to the end of this year, people thought the FAA was going to move faster on BVLOS and flying over people, most of the community believed that it would be happening soon. But we forget that the community couldn’t come together and didn’t have any data to back arguments on safety to Congress.”
Everyone knows I’ve been beating that drum and believe we squandered a lot of good face time with Congress. Folks are wringing their hands that the limited flight envelopes are not allowing them to make money or realise the true potential of drones. I contend that we lucked out, but both Rob and Jeff felt like there was still plenty of opportunities to move the ball forward and into field goal range.
“In the new administration, we have a great opportunity to inform legislative members. We also have legislation that will be forth coming in the new Congress. H.R.636 – FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 is a short-term exemption, we have until September 2017 to engage with members of Congress with a new language and the provisions of the law moving forward.”
Jeff contends that there is still enough time on the clock to put points on the board, but besides the Congressional route what can the commercial UAS folks do?
“The FAA has welcomed interest in helping to move things forward. They welcome research that meets their standards. Up until now, not one main drone manufacturer had given the FAA any data they can use or have offered to conduct testing in their own industry When the drone industry didn’t come together they allowed the regulators to do the testing. If we had some credible data and the opportunity to educate someone in congress you are giving them something they can understand and not looking foolish, then you can impact the legislation.”
Hear, hear! My drone motivations have always been focused on small business and jobs. I’ve always held the notion that what is good for the end-user would ultimately be good for the drone companies. That is why I suggested that the OEM’s put up the money for research. Not that I am opposed to the FAA finally doing research and satisfying the need for data. However, I just feel like this is another instance in a long line of instances where the unmanned community should be asking the questions, as they will bear the brunt of the outcome.
Drones are aviation, and that isn’t opinion as the 2012 FAA Reauthorization and NTSB ruling nailed it shut. The real opportunity for a more favourable position as well as credibility in the advocacy arena was missed. We could have had a less than 4-pound exemption (administered by a CBO) and an unregulated hobby if those friendly warnings from folks inside the FAA were headed. That is all water under the bridge now, and many believe the easy lobby money has been spent and the exposure squandered by unqualified “pay to play” advocacy representation. The good news for those still here is that we still have an opportunity to stop the madness and get it right by investing in a campaign of education based on empirical data, science and emulating the aviation trailblazers.
For more information about what Rob and Jeff are up to, or to contact them
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