The FAA released their choice of participants of the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) which failed to represent actual drone pilots or drone service providers on the key panel that advises the FAA on how to handle unmanned aerial regulations.
Each year, the FAA holds a few Drone Advisory Committee meetings to help make decisions that affect regulation, rules, and operations as a whole. The FAA defines the DAC as:
“long-term Federal advisory committee that provides the FAA with advice on key UAS integration issues by helping to identify challenges and prioritize improvements. The committee helps to create broad support for an overall integration strategy and vision. Membership (PDF) is comprised of CEO/COO-level executives from a cross-section of stakeholders representing the wide variety of UAS interests, including industry, research and academia, retail, and technology.”
These meetings would have offered a direct line of communication from actual drone pilots to the FAA to help counter real-world sUAS problems. Instead, these meetings seem to only offer a way for large companies to control the conversation. While the FAA states that the committee consists of a wide variety of UAS interests, including the industry. NO working sUAS pilot from the community is represented.
It seems that the FAA/DOT does not care or value true knowledge gained from actual hands-on experience in the field.
Not. One. Single. Bit.
How can I possibly say that? Because there is not a single DSP on the committee. This even after numerous incredibly qualified DSPs applied for this committee. Yet the committee is still made upon the upper echelon of the drone industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people on this committee, but I don’t see a single one that flies drones for a living. Many have to deal with drones (or operators) every single day and have a great take on things, but not a single one depends on putting the hands on a controller in order to make a living. NOT ONE!!!!
Because drone service providers, aka actual pilots, make up the VAST majority of drone pilots, and every single decision made by the DAC affect our bottom line. And if none of us are on the Drone Advisory Committee, it’s obvious the DAC and FAA leadership just don’t care what we think.
How about unless you have money, the agencies don’t care what you think? Again, the people on the DAC are there to protect the interests of their piece of the UAS pie. We get that. Congratulations to them for being selected. We don’t have a beef with any of you, except that you don’t represent the interests of small businesses and actual UAS operators aka..pilots.
But what about us Secretary Chao? Don’t we matter?
I don’t mean to sound whiney, but I don’t care if I do. This is a kick in the gut (feel free to use your own preferred body part here) to every DSP in the nation.
I implore Secretary Chao to add additional members. If that means adjusting the charter to include more than 35 members, then so be it.
Certain industry sectors are over-represented anyway, so you can reconsider and cut those members. There is even a UAS Operator section, but even the two members in that group represent large corporations. Yes, CNN and BNSF are large players in the UAS Operator sector. But they don’t represent the DPS. BNSF actually hires mostly Part 61 pilots to fly UAS, not part 107 pilots..aka drone pilots.
How about removing a couple from the Traditional Manned Aviation Operators sector? Do we really need two different people to represent helicopters? I have no doubt they could work together and provide a united front to advocate for their industry. And why is UPS there as Manned? Certainly, they can effectively represent the concerns that segment possesses. And if they can’t, ALPA can take up the slack.
You also have American Airlines and the AOPA. AOPA and ALPA should be an “either/or”, not an “and”. Certainly, their dog in this fight is closely related enough to be considered the same breed. If UPS is there as an unmanned aviation representative instead, couldn’t they work with Wing? They’re competitors, I get that, but have the same goal in mind. Working together is something we DSPs have to do daily.
Let’s discuss Manufacturer and Software segments. There are 8 of those members on the Drone Advisory Committee. Granted one is also the DAC Chair (Michael Chasen) but does 1?4 of the committee really need to come from that sector? Yes, they all have something to add, but at what cost to the DSPs?
Secretary Chao should be required to reconvene the selection process and make this a much more fair representation of the actual makeup of the UAS industry. Or add 3 spots for DSPs.
Drone Pilots and DSP’s deserve better than this. We can’t have the Drone Advisory Committee made up exclusively of people who have virtually no idea of what happens in the day-to-day activities and operations of the average drone Pilot. They just don’t understand our struggles as well as we do. Nor should they be expected to.
We can (must) figure out a way to provide that voice to the Drone Advisory Committee.
Okay, now that I’ve emoted (or at least about as much as I feel I can safely emote in a public venue), let’s talk about what can realistically be done.It’s fair to say that no DAC member is going to be removed and that the DAC charter is not going to be expanded within the next 3 weeks (the first DAC meeting is June 6th). Secretary Chao certainly can’t be expected to add new members between meetings. That would probably put a kink in the colon of the processes the Drone Advisory Committee is tasked with. Bringing new players to the table means they’d have to be brought up to speed and that would slow the process down. There are usually only 3 DAC meetings a year, so playing catch up at one won’t logistically work.
But we can still make our voices known. Go to the meeting as an observer. The next meeting is in Arlington, VA on June 6th. You can RSVP [email protected].
You can send in your comments on items they’ll discuss. Meeting details are published at least 15 days before the scheduled date in the Federal Register. We’ll do our part to get that information public as soon as we hear.
If you can’t make it to the Drone Advisory Committee meeting, you can submit your comments via email. The process for that isn’t readily available yet, but once it is we’ll make sure everyone knows it as well. If you know someone on the DAC, reach out to them and ask them to please keep the needs and requests of the DSP community in front of the Committee. I certainly plan on doing that.
I have no idea why Secretary Chao didn’t want DSPs on the committee, maybe she did or maybe she didn’t understand how valuable our input could be ! The suspected ideas (conspiracies?!?!) are running rampant on the forums this morning. Some are probably close to the truth. My favorites include “money talks”, government agencies don’t care about small operators (even though we’re the largest segment in terms of sheer numbers), DAC doesn’t care about small operators or Secretary Chao is like a mother hen who knows better for her “baby chicks”.
Maybe this is the catalyst that this industry needs to finally get an organization off the ground that can officially speak for the Remote Pilots and business owners. Many have tried, and all have failed. Someone with about $250K-$300K lying around could really use this decision as a platform to start herding all of us cats called DSPs.
And at least two of the current Drone Advisory Committee members are already trying to reach out to DSPs to join their organization. Maybe one of them (AOPA???) would be willing to go that extra mile and really push for our rights. I think most DSPs have given up on AMA to honestly do that. They’re focused on hobbyists (as demonstrated by getting their fields exempt from the current ban on hobby flights in controlled airspace), and that’s fine. Protect the interest of your members, that’s your job.
But AOPA, now is your chance to step up to the plate for us.
If you don’t, you’re missing a golden opportunity. And of course, DJI is there being represented by Brendan Schulman. And the vast majority of their commercial clients are DSPs. So I know Brendan is doing his best to represent us. But even then, he has to put DJI’s interests first. They pay his salary, and that’s what he needs to do.
There is no truly independent voice for the small independent drone service providers that make up the vast majority of 107 operators in the NAS today.
Best industry guess are anywhere from 75-90% of all 107 operators are DSPs. As of 5/1/19, there are 130,551 Remote Pilots in the United States. That means as many as 117,500 107 Pilots do not have a seat at the table.
How does the FAA expect to maintain authority and credibility within the drone community when they fail to represent the interests of the very people they’re expected to govern?
Let’s all figure out how to move forward together.
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