In testimony scheduled to be delivered on March 10, 2016 before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, AUVSI president and CEO Brian Wynne described the benefits that unmanned aircraft systems are expected to bring to the nation’s economy, particularly when the technology is used by small businesses.
“UAS increase human potential, allowing us to execute dangerous or difficult tasks safely and efficiently,” Wynne said in the prepared remarks. “From inspecting pipelines and surveying bridges to filming movies and providing farmers with aerial views of their crops, the applications of UAS are virtually limitless. It’s no wonder businesses—small and large—are clamoring to use this technology.”
In May 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would consider granting exemptions for certain low-risk commercial UAS applications under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Since then, the FAA has granted more than 3,800 exemptions to companies that have deployed UAS for a variety of commercial applications.
Wynne’s testimony highlighted a recent AUVSI analysis of the industries currently operating with exemptions.
“We found that the vast majority of companies receiving exemptions are small businesses. Just as smart phones and tablets revolutionized our economy over the past decade, UAS are transforming the way a number of industries operate and are creating several news ones as well—from startups focused on developing new UAS platforms and components to entrepreneurs creating new business models that offer specific UAS services,” Wynne said.
A separate AUVSI report on the economic impact of UAS has forecasted the industry to create more than 100,000 new jobs and more than $82 billion in economic impact within the first 10 years following UAS integration into the airspace.
Wynne also urged the FAA to finalize its long-overdue small UAS rule as quickly as possible to help increase the safety of the skies and allow the burgeoning commercial market to take off.
“We were disappointed that the FAA missed the Sept. 30, 2015, congressionally mandated deadline for UAS integration, and the agency still has yet to finalize a small UAS rule for commercial operations. As a result, American companies—the vast majority of them small businesses—are left sitting on the sidelines or operating under an onerous exemption process,” said Wynne.
“[W]hile some businesses are flying, this current system of case-by-case approvals isn’t a long-term solution and in many cases serves as a deterrent,” said Wynne. He said this is, “especially challenging for small businesses that do not have full-time lawyers and compliance officers to help navigate the confusing set of policies that currently govern UAS.”