Later today 5 drone executives (AirMap (Ben Marcus, CEO AirMap, George Matthew, CEO of Kespry, Brandon Torres Declet, CEO of Measure, and Michael Chasen, CEO of PrecisionHawk, Airspace, not sure who) will be meeting with President Trump. We were not invited to attend so offer up the following by way of advice.
Keep it simple. This is generally good advice regardless of who you are speaking with. The message should be short, clear and repeated. Regarding the drone industry, it’s health, growth, and vitality in the US – there are two things the government should do and the President should understand.
First, it’s about the research, stupid.
Might be a good idea to leave the last word off but the point is an important one. Government research is critical to long term American leadership – period. Remember DARPA’s work? Enough said. NASA is doing important work and serving as a catalyst in coordinating and evaluating research done by private companies. The most recent evidence of this was their recent series testing of UTM technologies. UTM is a black hole at the moment. However, establishing a universal, sound technology foundation for managing the air traffic of unmanned aircraft will greatly accelerate business development and innovation.
Second, regulation, regulation, regulation.
The industry is not likely to benefit from Senator Feinstein’s recent legislative proposal, the Drone Federalism Act. Thanks but no thanks. Ditto for the recent proposal coming from the House, The Drone Innovation Act from Congressman Lewis. Putting innovation in the title of the act does not make it so. And lastly there is the ghastly section, OFFICIAL ACTIONS TO ADDRESS THREATS POSED BY UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TO PUBLIC SAFETY OR HOMELAND SECURITY, of the National Defense Authorization Act. No one is going to argue with the title of that section of the act, however, the language should give pause. None of these regulations are helpful to the growth and maturity of the industry. They create uncertainty and that inhibits business. The President understand that. The responsibility lies with the FAA and the re-authorization of the FAA should be the priority. Tell the President to get that through. Further, the new incoming FAA Director (Huerta leaves in January) should be taken to task to determine a timeline and strategy for inclusion of consumer and commercial UAS into the national airspace. We understand the need for safety. That is a given. But aggressive, sustained attention to establishing clear regulations will remove the fog of uncertainty and abet innovation (in our opinion). Whatever measures the President can take to make that happen would be greatly appreciated.
Lastly, and we would leave this to the executives discretion; but we would suggest to the President that he not describe the FAA as “out of whack” or that “they didn’t know what the hell they are doing.” — at least not publicly. Those opinions may very well be accurate but best shared privately.
In conclusion — Mr. Chasen, Mr. Matthew, Mr. Torres Declet, and Mr. Marcus — tell him who you are! Be bold, be frank, and have fun.