Despite the FAA’s Fact Sheet telling states to back off from regulating drones, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 45 states considered 168 bills related to drones in 2015. Local restrictions place additional burdens on commercial drone operators, adding confusion and additional layers of beaurocracy to the regulatory framework. In the interview below, DJI’s policy expert Schulman tells operators that they need to be proactive in educating their local lawmakers about the benefits and realities of drones.
(This show was sponsored and reproduced with permission, by DroneLaw.pro, a leading source of information about FAA drone regulations, commercial drone use and other legal issues facing the drone community.)
Enrico Schaefer: We are here with Brendan Schulman, from DJI, who is really setting a healthy DJI policy globally for drones and sUAS. We just finished a panel discussion. Brendan, one of the interesting things that you mentioned that we see going on every day across the United States is the state legislatures and some of the local municipalities starting to come up with their own set of regulations and rules and in some civil and some criminal. You mentioned that on your panel, today, what is the strategy that DJI and the industry is taking on some of these efforts.
Brendan Schulman: Well, we’ve done a couple of things. In places where we think there needs to be a strong industry wide response. We work together with our industry allies including associations like the Consumer Technology Association, AUV, and smaller AUV coalition. To inform lawmakers on about what the technology can do and try to achieve a balance and reasonable outcome. In some cases we have had to advocate for things like veto of some the legislation. I think what we also see is a real chance to empower the operators, the users of the technology, to go to their own communities and to introduce the technology to the lawmakers either in advance of these bills coming up or even when they are pending or coming up through the committee to show up and testify and explain who they are and what they do and how they are using the technology in beneficial ways. So it is really a two pronged approach. Yes, we have the formal lobbying type response when needed, but I think it is also very effective for people to go to their own elected leaders and just talk with them about technology.
Enrico: Every single level of this industry, education seems to be the dominant effort and the necessary effort in the terms of getting people to understand, in this instance, what they are regulating. In some instances, at the state and global level there’s a tremendous amount of confusion and lack of information about what they are doing. They have people who are concerned about privacy all of the sudden and then they rush to get some type of privacy law in place. And so, the drone operators are a key component of this equation. There are a lot more of them then DJI.
Brendan: I have seen it is very effective. I have gone to meetings with State Legislative staff or even city staff. I testified at the New York City hearings recently. There are three bills pending there. It was extremely effective to show up with a Phantom. Here’s the drone and here is what you are regulating. A lot of the lawmakers are not necessarily seen it. Even just in person in the room or even alone seen one fly. I think if you are going out to do a flight demonstration and you understand the technology. Make sure you understand the technology and are experienced. You do not want to do anything embarrassing. But even just to show up in the office and say with a back pack with a drone in it and say here is the drone I use. Let me kind of show you how it works. Here is a screen shot of an image I took of beautiful foliage in town. And explain how these things are used. This sort of mystifies them. There are abstract presumptions of what a drone is and I think this leads to the privacy legislation and other things.
Enrico: All of these presumption issues are key. You get that vocal very minority that always wants to shoot the drone out of the sky. Right? And you get it every time you post something on Facebook. There is always that one person that seem to be the loudest voice. What does DJI seeing in terms of the public perception of drones? Are we starting to turn the corner with some of this media hype about the bad things that occur and start to move toward these are you know what maybe these are really going to be a positive influence in society?
Brendan: I think it has gone in waves. There has always been the positive stories and I think. I see them. I put them on Twitter. We have a collection of them. We have story section on our video. We have amazing stories about fire response, search and rescue, and humanitarian crisis response in Nepal. Just the list goes on and on. Virtually every day there is a good story. Unfortunately the media is driven by negative headlines. Getting and attracting looks or views. I think that’s just going to be in any technology or any sort of thing that is hard to understand. I do not know that’s getting any better or worse. I think it is just always there. That’s why it is important that if there any goods stories, bring them to us. Let us know what you are doing and if you went and found a lost dog then let us know that. We can help bring attention to this, because we have great media connection.
Enrico: What would be your advice to drone operators for operating under Section 333? In terms of the policy side, what should they be doing to make their certain stance to improve their circumstance in the world?
Brendan: I think if you are a business and your operating drones in connection with that. You absolutely must be vocal to your local representatives. The greatest threat to that type of operator is not the federal government right now it is what the city, county or state might do with drones. Including regulating or adding layers of permitting, or registration on top of what already exists. Many of these businesses are small and are using a Phantom or an Inspire. Often they want more of a cost associated with going out and doing something beneficial. So very important, if you own a company go out and meet your elected representatives for your district? Who are your state senator your state assembly. If you do not know them and you haven’t invited them to your office, I think you are missing an opportunity for stall legislation. It is much harder to pull back once that bill is written and it’s working its way to the committee. Someone has already invested time and effort in writing it and it is harder to talk down from it. If you proactively reach out that is the best thing you could do right now.
Enrico: The legal challenge would take a lot of time and they do not help you in the interim.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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