AUVSI TOP – Is It All Over But The Crying?

Is the Trusted Operator Program toast and what should AUVSI do to save face and members if this turns out to be another awkward and off-putting catastrophe? I called it early on suggesting that executive leadership may want to preemptively call in the NTSB for the impending “smouldering crater” that would be TOP. Was it because I take some kind of pleasure in its demise? No. Maybe if I were peddling a competing product, I’d be crowing about how we got another crack at getting granny’s pension (VC money) back. But that’s not how I roll. I wish they could pull a victory out of the hat, but they are apparently incapable of mustering any semblance of success, besides that bestowed upon them by the FAA. Bootlicking has its privileges, and that privilege, in this case, is apparently screening access to government employees.

I don’t think the TOP program was a bad idea; it was something akin to what I had suggested to executive leadership years ago. We had a similar concept of member benefits at the RCAPA before the 2007 FAA policy clarification. The problem with the program (a little more free consulting because I care about the industry) was that ideas and initiatives are never made for the benefit of the membership beyond the inner circle of executive leadership and the board. #benefit

The leadership symbiosis works like this: the board will keep the big Wynne around as long as the consulting contracts are rolling in, and the big Wynne will keep playing his part in the association’s dying show as long as the salary and bonuses are rolling in. Where does that leave the membership? It leaves them fending for themselves to realize the $82 billion (rumors are that the past CEO is saying the forecast was wrong, he thinks more like a trillion $), financially supporting an irrational program, and making excuses why they can’t disengage from self-destructive and codependent behavior.

What are the current benefits of membership, and what should they be? Are they clinking glasses at the cocktail parties with the premium member charlatans? (Poor old Granny spent a life scrimping and saving just to miss out on a lot of partying on her nickel.) Is it a clear and concise message to our elected federal representatives, or qualified representation in committees, or possibly a bulwark against regulatory overreach? I ask members why they support the spectacle, and the only thing they can say is, “It’s the only game in town.” The member follow-up is usually, “Let’s start something new.” I keep hearing that, but you’re not knocking the +/- $30 million a year AMA and AUVSI advocacy aristocracy out of the box on goodwill and the best of intentions.

Whatever the case, if we were able to start up a disruptive new group of experts, we would have to contend with pushback from the Chinese toy company Cabal, VC funded half-wits busy peddling products and whistles on plow drone services. Then there is the FAA, and those folks have a real aversion to anything besides major league bootlickers, toadies, and the potential off-ramp contract sycophant. You’ve got to be capable of compartmentalizing what is left of your dignity, endure glib lies, and grovel with a smile on your face.

Those of you looking for free consulting in the solutions section that usually follows will be disappointed. I am no longer casting pearls before the swine when professional CEO’s would rather pay handsomely for terrible advice.

AUVSI Trusted Operator Program

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).