Intel Warns FAA: Drone Regs May Drive Them Overseas

As the Energy and Commerce Department hosted The Disrupter Series: The Fast-Evolving Uses and Economic Impacts of Drones yesterday, the Vice President of New Technology at Intel dropped a bomb into the proceedings when he told legislators that Intel would move its operations overseas if US drone regulations were too restrictive.

Joshua Walden told House members of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee that Intel recognized drones as the computing platform of the future, and said that Intel was investing heavily in drone technology, citing Intel’s commitment to innovation.  He then made it very clear that Intel was committed to the drone platform, and would continue to develop it wherever regulations supported the new industry:

It is possible to both improve safety and promote American innovation involving advances in drone technology. However, a federal government approach that is overly prescriptive regarding the deployment of new hardware and software will deter the private sector’s ability to invent and compete in the marketplace. Worse, it will drive us to relocate our business planning and R&D overseas, where we are being welcomed by foreign countries eager for investment in this new technology area.

Emphasizing that regulators should focus on technology innovations rather than rules to increase safety, Mr. Walden listed the many safety innovations that Intel has invested in, including the PrecisionHawk Pathfinder research for flight beyond line of sight, and Intel’s own “RealSense” technology which allows better depth perception in imaging.  He then called for a “flexible regulatory framework” which would categorize drones appropriately according to size and purpose, and apply rules accordingly.  “This flexible regulatory framework should recognize that there are a wide variety of devices that fall under the definition of UAVs,” Walden said.  “A hobbyist’s small quad copter should not necessarily be governed by the same regulations as plane size platforms.”

Walden urged regulators to keep innovation and the potential benefits of a thriving drone economy in the forefront when considering regulations:

Bottom line, governments should strive to substantially decrease administrative burdens on innovators. Approval processes that can stretch close to a year should be dramatically streamlined. Many commercial uses of small UAVs should be allowed without filing requirements, just as hobbyist use is permitted today.

Read a full transcript of the testimony here.