October 03, 2014      

Two of the world?s best-known companies, four drone manufacturers, a state-of-the-art camera company and a drone-component firm are taking a bold stance for the fast-growing industry, forming the Small UAV Coalition to advance the regulatory environment that will support safe, reliable and timely operation of small UAVs.

Founding members include (in alphabetical order): 3DR, Aerialtronics, Airwave, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x]?s Project Wing, GoPro and Parrot. The coalition will also receive support from a team of attorneys at Akin Gump Strauss Haur & Feld LLP.

The coalition defines small UAVs as under 55 pounds, typically flying less than 400 feet above ground level, using rechargeable batteries, and flown by a remote operator or an automated program within the UAV itself.

Michael Drobac, a senior adviser to Atkin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, is the coalition’s executive director. He tells RBR the coalition is a 501(c)6 corporation incorporated in Delaware and filed all necessary Lobbying Disclosure Act documents weeks ago. Each of the eight founding member companies has a seat on the board of directors; other companies are welcome to apply for membership if they are substantially involved in the commercial UAV industry.

Drobac said the coalition will be a ?unique voice? for that specific industry, will not include aerospace or defense sectors, and emphasized that the coalition has a good relationship with the AVUSI and other drone organizations.

?We are at a crucial time in the progress of the evolution of the UAV industry,? Drobac says. He said that next month the FAA is supposed to issue a notice of proposed rule-making for commercial applications on UAVs. Moreover, an Executive Order on privacy concerning civilian and government use of drones is also expected soon. And the coalition has already met with a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Drobac says he wants a ?macro discussion? on the question of ?How is the U.S. going to be a leader in the UAV industry?? and that the coalition hopes to prevent any circumstance that could cause U.S.-based UAV companies to consider moving overseas.

“We hope to convince the FAA that small UAVs can fly autonomously safely and do not need a pilot with a license since it would block many interesting business cases around using UAVs as Internet of Things,” Yannick Levy, vice president for corporate business development of Parrot, tells RBR. “The benefit of UAVs comes from the progress of robotics and miniaturization of sensors and processors. The rule should take this into account.”

Levy says RBR50 company Parrot entered into discussions with DJI and 3DR about the idea of joining efforts “to accelerate the FAA ruling for the U.S. market. The requirements should be very different as for larger drones or airplanes. So it made sense to create a lobbying group to create a set of rules that ensures safety and at the same time will allow this market to become an important market. Amazon was interested as well and then other members including recently Google joined also.”

Levy says members plan to meet monthly in Washington and already keep in touch regularly online and by telephone, with each making technical contributions and paying a small fee for operational expenses of the coalition.

DJI Innovations was founded in 2006 in Shenzhen, China, to create high-performance, easy-to-use aerial camera systems for recreational and commercial uses including cinematography, advertising, agriculture and law enforcement. RBR50 company 3D Robotics, founded in 2009, is based in Berkeley, Calif., and recently received investment by Sir Richard Branson.

RBR50 company Amazon, of course, has long been on the record as planning to initiate deliveries via drone.

RBR50 company Google is the other heavyweight in the group and well known for its longstanding love of robotics. The video below shows the company?s interest in autonomous aerial vehicles.

Through its website, Twitter presence and other means, the coalition hopes to make the public aware of how UAVs are a positive force for good in the world.

?Small unmanned aerial vehicles will yield tremendous benefits to consumers in so many exciting and practical ways,? the news release says. ?Small UAVs can be utilized for stunning aerial photography, surveying and mapping, advances in precision agriculture, consumer delivery, disaster management, journalism, and to monitor flare stacks and gas pipelines. In addition, the coalition will continue to support safe recreational enjoyment of UAV s for hobbyists and enthusiasts. The Small UAV Coalition believes safe commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small UAVs will benefit the lives of consumers and promote U.S. competitiveness. We look forward to working with the FAA, FCC, the Administration and Congress to ensure this industry can flourish.?