The drone lobby has been in the news of late, as the NYTimes Bits Blog reported a couple of weeks ago that a frenzy of industry stakeholders had descended upon Washington in an effort to influence drone policy in the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act (also known as the AIRR Act.) Now The Hill has tallied data on lobby spending as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and the drone lobby is clearly represented.
Several big players in the drone and aviation industry appear on the list of the top 50 spenders. First up is Boeing, passing Google and Comcast in spending as they fight to save the Export-Import Bank. The Export-Import Bank finances and insures foreign purchases of US-made goods, and it is critical to Boeing’s success overseas. While drones are not Boeing’s only product, they are becoming a significant part of the total; Boeing has been losing drone deals to Israeli and European companies in recent years. In 2015 Boeing spent $21.9 million on lobbying, 30% more than it spent in 2014. (Despite opposition from conservatives, the lobby effort was apparently successful: Congress has passed a 5 year extension of the Export-Import Bank’s charter.)
Google’s parent company Alphabet is high on the list, having spent a whopping 16,660,000 in lobbying this year. While the number is huge, it is a 1% decrease from the year before. While Google’s interests in Washington are wide and varied, drone delivery and promised Project Loon Internet-beaming drones are on the list.
Lockheed Martin, with a wide variety of unmanned systems in the portfolio, spent $13,794,053, doubtless lobbying for some of the same items that Boeing is fighting for. And the well-publicized efforts of Amazon came in at $9,435,000. The company’s FAA lobbying effort on drone delivery regulation has been significant this year, as they push to get drone delivery and ex-line of sight flight into the UAV integration legislation. They have apparently decided that spending in Washington is the way to achieve their aims, as this year’s number represents a 91% increase over last year’s spending.
Qualcomm, whose spending increased by 42% this year to more than $7.9 million, joins Amazon in being included in the top 50 for the first time this year. While not commonly known as a drone player, Qualcomm is increasingly developing the segment as a good fit for the chips most commonly found in mobile devices. With a significant presence in Washington, they could lend muscle to the drone lobby.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that lobbying is a $3 billion per year industry with 11,465 registered lobbyists.
The Hill’s full report on lobbyists’ spending can be found here.
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 a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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