AUVSI: Drones Drive A New Economy


With more than 700 exhibitors at this week’s AUVSI XPONENTIAL show in Denver, there’s a drone for every purpose and the association says UAS applications are expanding. “This business is adding more and more jobs to the overall economy,” the association’s president, Brian Wynne, told some of the 8500 attendees at an opening-day keynote address.

And just since last year’s Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International show in Dallas, several new companies have established UAS operation, including Airbus. Wynne said new drone activities are popping up monthly, although regulation—or actually lack of it—continues to hinder further growth.

“I would say the sky’s the limit, except we all know that’s not true. It’s more like 400 feet,” said Steven Bradbury, a Department of Transportation official who briefed the opening session on the state of UAS regulation. But he said the industry has, nonetheless, expanded its footprint considerably. Well over a million small drones have been registered with the FAA and more than 100,000 of those are commercial operators.

While Bradbury acknowledged that the FAA is moving slower than the industry would like on critical regulation such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations, he said both agencies are primarily concerned with safety and security.

“Americans have no tolerance for an aviation mishaps … terrorism or an accident,” he said. A drone involved in a significant accident or terrorist act would create a setback for the industry, he added.

Meanwhile, the DOT has announced that it sees the legal framework to streamline approvals for drone deliveries under the so-called Air Taxi Exemption rule in FAR Part 298. To qualify, would-be operators will have to show evidence of insurance, register with the FAA and have a safety plan in place.