Does the AAA/UAM recipe for success include jettisoning the droners?
I’m going to give it to you straight cause I like you, and I care about our domestic
aerospace ecosystem. I have some advice and suggestions for those that hope for a
fighting chance at the purported $3 trillion Jetsonian success story. The advice is
free, so take it for what it is worth, way more than FARM DRONES! Decouple and
run from the BestBuy drone fliers. The FAA UASIO and earlier iteration UAPO have,
after almost 30 years, been ineffectual and incapable of integrating 251-gram
drones into the US NAS. That is despite a Congressional mandate for full integration
in September of 2015, 16 years of industry standards work, and hardcore cajoling
from legacy and upstart DoD vendors.
I would suggest looking to Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) as an example of what can be
accomplished by industry SME’s with a pile of money, motivation, and some
politically connected friends.
Historically, Droners are held to higher safety standards than just a level equivalent with GA or even LSA as was demanded by the AOPA. We have heard for years that one accident involving drones could stop the whole show.
Meanwhile, the LSA accident rate overall = 29.80/100,000 hrs., and fatality rate of 5/100,000 hrs., and that dying show is still on the road! Remember, the RC hobbyist went under the bus for much less. Whatever you do, don’t let them sell you that hogwash that LSA isn’t commercial as they charge money for instruction. For drones, one dollar or in-kind service/gifts constituted commercial operations! I know it constitutes an “equivalent level” slip, but who doesn’t love a double standard?
ASTM F38 kickoff in 2005, we droners got the Rah-Rah F35 (Light-Sport Aircraft)
speech on how industry standards fast-tracked the savior of the American General
Aviation industry. I was there, man! So was Earl Lawrence, and I’m sure he knew
better about giving people advice about type certification and what all that entails.
Or maybe, it was just a cunning off-ramp plan that was affected upon people who
have an aversion to the small print, technical document reading, or the realities of
running an airline?
The whole deal has pretty much gone pear-shaped in my estimation; however, it is
miles above what we got in Unmanned. The Light-Sport Aircraft cost a boatload of
money, the Chinese own many of the companies, and the safety numbers are
The numbers are so bad that a memo should go inter-agency suggesting that the safety of the NAS platitude should be judicially used until we can bring that
standards group calamity under control. I’m not even going down the Robinson
Road as that would add another five or six hundred words to an already belaboured
point. The GA guys have no room to snicker as the fatality numbers are headed up
and not down.
There is also the commercial space (no, not real-estate) fallback if the safety
numbers for LSA are too hard of a sell for you and your associates. Get together as a
group, write up some plausible goals and aims, and finally commission some
scientific research supporting what we’re up to this point, just outlandish and
whimsical claims. Whatever you do, do not waste all of your political capital and
goodwill on the notion that you will be able to con these beguiled representatives
into risking their lucrative public careers on your feelings and the best of intentions.
Pitchmen wearing board shorts and flip-flops are also a bad idea. I know it should go
without saying, but we have some slow learners in our midst.
Be realistic with your goals; Philosophia Naturalis is a cruel and remorseless old foe.
Our current technology readiness levels will be hard-pressed to make all of the
caviar dreams come true, and technology may be the easy part in the near term.
Be realistic with your financial forecasts; padding the numbers by 10 to 20 percent
is expected, but hitting the Silicon Valley valuation bong may produce numbers that
eclipse other forms of existing means of transportation with developed infrastructure in value.
I’ve seen a few trillion thrown around, and even the BestBuy fanbois aren’t buying that crazy talk. It will not take as long as you think for intelligent (and or sober) people to see through the con. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is look at AUVSI and the laughingstock they have become.
Who remembers the one-dollar last-mile delivery estimate, ROTFLMAO!
Think incrementally; do not try to eat the whole whale sandwich on rye in one bite.
Maybe start off with “pay”-load like cargo. Burritos appear to be all of the rage, so
perhaps you too can fly the mole` skies? I would much rather lose a holy load of
burritos in a lithium chemistry fire than chance a passenger that has left behind
plaintiffs that will hire the proverbial kennel full of shysters to sue the pants off of
those even remotely associated with this get rich scheme.
Also, why I mention emulating the commercial space advocacy as the fallback plan. The classification of “participant” put a heat shield in-between the insurance industry and liability. This fallback is only valid until the first group of “participants” gets roasted on reentry. I don’t care what they tell you in the Best Buy drone aisle; space travel is hard.
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Originally published in the 2021 Small Unmanned Systems Business Journal