The following is a guest post by Kennedy Martinez. You can read more of her work on dronethusiast.com
With the recent growth in the drone industry — particularly around major drone delivery developments, drone companies are looking to build a future where drones are viewed favorably by the government and the public. Much of those efforts are being led by drone lobbying groups.
Here are some of the biggest players in the drone lobby world that you need to know:
Non-profit drone lobbying groups
The Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) claims to be the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community, and is one of the most well-known drone lobbying groups out there with a broad following online and even major annual conference.
The FAA recently proposed two new regulations around rules for operating small unmanned aircraft over people and for safe and secure small UAS operations. AUVSI says these new proposed rules are overly conservative and too restrictive. AUVSI members have advocated for the FAA to enact a revised framework of its regulations that provide certainty for operators, such as safety compliance based on relevant standards and aircraft reliability. They’ve also urged the FAA to develop new performance-based regulations that better account for the low risk posed by UAS operations.
AUVSI membership is open to all types of companies and professionals in the unmanned systems industry as well as university students interested in technology. Anyone can join AUVSI, and standard membership dues start at $150 annually, though there are some discounts available, such as for military members or for people willing to commit to a longer-term membership.
Academy of Model Aeronautics
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is a non-profit organization led by consumers. When AMA started, they focused on traditional model aircraft, but as drones have become the most widely used model aircraft in today’s age, the AMA has begun advocating for them.
Like AUVSI, AMA has similar views on advocating for less-strict regulations for consumer drone pilots and works to educate and improve the drone community. AUVSI and AMA often work together on being the voice for drone consumers. However, AUVSI members are made up of professionals and companies while the AMA is open to almost anyone.
AMA works with local governments, zoning boards, and parks departments to promote the interest of local chartered clubs. Anyone interested, even beginner drone pilots, is welcomed to join and help advocate for model aeronautics. Most adult memberships cost $75 a year, and membership is free anyone under 19.
Drone manufacturers and their drone lobbying groups
Some of the biggest manufacturers have made it a goal to advocate for drones across different policies. And it makes sense. The more widespread drone use is, the more money for them.
DJI is the world’s largest drone company, and with its rapid growth means more regulations for lawmakers and the FAA. In 2015, DJI hired Brendan Schulman as its vice president of policy and legal affairs where he’s proven to have an influential voice in the role. He has helped DJI become a leading role in advocating for the drone industry in Washington by participating in committees and coalitions in collaboration with the FAA and other industry leaders.
Schulman has been particularly influential in improving geofencing technology to refine airspace limitations for drone flights near airports in order to provide smarter protection for airplanes in critical areas. In 2018, Schulman helped update the Geospatial Environment Online Version 2.0 which allowed for three-dimensional ‘bow-tie” safety zones and other polygon shapes to be created around runway flight paths and other sensitive facilities. Before, only circles could be made, which meant a much broader radius that was restricted to flyers. Polygons allow for more detailed maps. The new restrictions reflect the actual safety risk posed in these areas while allowing more flights on the side of runways where risk is lower.
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Drone Manufacturers Alliance Europe
Top drone manufacturers including DJI, GoPro, and Parrot teamed up to form this alliance. This coalition claims to be dedicated to enforcing safety and security while expanding the civil drone market by providing jobs, economic growth, and inspiring new creative applications of drone technology. See some of the best camera drones at dronethusiast.com.
Drone lobbyists within broader technology companies
Many tech companies spend time and money in Capitol Hill in an effort to introduce drones as a benefit to areas including food, transportation, immigration, agriculture, defense, and healthcare.
According to the Financial Times, Google has 13 in-house lobbyists currently working in Washington. Google spent $21 million last year and remains an influential tech force in the Capitol. With lawmakers turning their attention to regulation the tech industry, with issues like privacy legislation, net neutrality, election integrity, 5G connectivity, and cybersecurity among others.
Like many tech companies, Google has been in discussions with the FAA pushing for drone deliveries. Within the past month, Google has launched drone delivery in Australia. Their delivery service, Wing, is now making limited commercial delivery in part’s of North Canberra, the country’s’ capital. Google hopes to be expanding both the goods offers and the places they’ll deliver to, soon. Wing has been working with the FAA since September of 2018 working towards drone deliveries in the US and the FAA recently announced that they expect to award Wing the first license to start operating drone delivery services in May.
Amazon has the largest lobbying team of any technology company in Washington, with a team of 28 in-house lobbyists. Its lobbyists work on many drone-related topics such as air cargo, cybersecurity, tax and food stamps, and more. The biggest push, however, is to have commercial delivery drones in the skies. Amazon has also been working with the FAA to make consumer drone deliveries more widespread across the United States. As of now, Amazon’s Prime Air service can only fly drones in the U.S as long as the FAA approved each flight.
Drone technology is rapidly growing with new innovations being discovered daily. With these changes, comes hesitation in Congress. This has led to constantly changing regulations for drone pilots. However, any companies are partnering with external and related businesses to collaborate on building a future where drones are viewed favorably by the government and the public with much of those efforts are being led by drone lobbyist groups.
Have a drone lobbying group that you think has been particularly relevant that we missed? Leave a comment below!
-By Kennedy Martinez
Kennedy is a content writer at Dronethusiast who enjoys learning about exciting new technology. You can read more of her work at dronethusiast.com