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Thu, Jul 30, 2015

Industry Reps Highlight UAS Uses At House Unmanned Systems Caucus Forum

AUVSI President And CEO Brian Wynne Moderated The Forum

Representatives from a variety of industries, from farmers to movie makers, discussed their uses of unmanned systems at a recent Capitol Hill forum hosted by the House Unmanned Systems Caucus and moderated by AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne.

The forum featured speakers from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Associated General Contractors of America, the National Association of Realtors and the AES Corp., an energy company based in Arlington, Virginia, that does business worldwide.
 
Wynne noted that based on the large number of applications for Section 333 exemptions to the Federal Aviation Administration — of which more than 800 have been granted so far — “a mature UAS commercial market is waiting to be released.”
 
In some cases, it has already started. The MPAA helped the first group of companies get exemptions, all from the TV and film industry, which had been shooting scenes with drones overseas and wanted to keep some of that production money in this country.
 
Film and TV productions support two million American jobs, bring in $111 billion in wages and benefit many small companies, noted Alicia Leahy Jackson, the MPAA’s director of congressional programs and outreach.
 
UAS tend to be small and battery powered, meaning the industry can “create the kinds of scenes and shots that we could only imagine a few years ago,” she said, citing a scene from the James Bond film “Skyfall” where a drone was able to fly over a train while it went under a bridge.
 
The FAA’s decision to pursue the Section 333 exemptions “helps create a climate where even more production can be done here instead of abroad,” she said.
 
Zac Penix, manager of emerging technologies for AES Corp., said his company has also been drones overseas due to tighter U.S. regulations. The company has operations in 112 locations in 18 countries, and “will be using unmanned systems in all of them by the end of the year,” he said, with 32 locations using them already.

For AES, the focus on unmanned systems — both drones and ground systems — is all about safety, mainly by allowing the inspection of locations that are hazardous for humans to oversee. For instance, windfarms can be damaged by lightning storms, but small UAS allows the company to “inspect these quickly, in minutes instead of hours or days.”
 
Realtors also have been using systems to sell houses, something now allowed in the United States that wasn’t previously. While the MPAA gets some more exciting possibilities — such as shooting key scenes for the upcoming Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film — Realtors get to have fun too, said Andrew Barbar, a Florida Realtor and National Association of Realtors member.
 
“While we don’t get to shoot Tom Cruise in an airplane, we get to shoot Tom Cruise’s home,” Barbar said.
 
He said while Realtors are content with low-tech, small UAS systems, the ones they have are “probably used more every day than anything else.”

Two other industries have been slower to warm to the possibilities of unmanned systems: general contractors and agriculture, although AUVSI’s economic report, released in 2013, pegged agriculture as being the largest potential commercial market once the systems can be widely used.
 
R.J. Carney, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said his group got interested in drones about two years ago. While the group’s members do have some privacy concerns, “in the big picture, we see the pros far outweigh the cons and really are supportive and want to see the FAA move forward with this notice of proposed rule [for small UAS],” he said.
 
The Farm Bureau has teamed with two other groups, Informa and Measure, to create a return on investment calculator for estimating the economic benefit of unmanned aircraft. Some of the numbers are very promising, Carney said, including savings of $12 per acre for corn, $2.60 per acre for soybeans and $2.30 per acre for wheat for the average U.S. farmer.
 
“It’s outstanding,” Carney said.
 
Mike Kennedy, the general counsel of the Associated General Contractors of America, said his group is even newer to the issue, taking interest only when the proposed small rule was introduced earlier this year.
 
He said the group’s members now see a wide variety of uses, from planning and design to construction inspection to helping contractors monitor their projects.
 
“People inside the Beltway are not aware of the many ways our members will use drones,” he said.
 
All the speakers said they have a wish list for the final small UAS rule and beyond, although there were many similarities. The contractors want night flights, as does the MPAA, the Farm Bureau and the Realtors. Most of the groups also want to be able to fly beyond line of sight, and the MPAA and Farm Bureau also highlighted that they want flexibility in the rules to accommodate new technology as it emerges.
 
“We don’t want to be already putting a closed lid on this and having to go through another rulemaking process,” Carney said.

FMI: www.auvsi.org

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