A Closer Look at the Brand-New Drone Manufacturers Alliance

Written by Betsy Lillian
on April 14, 2016 No Comments

During a busy time for the increasingly maturing small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) sector in the U.S., a new group recently commenced operations as the Drone Manufacturers Alliance.

GoPro and UAS manufacturers Berkeley, Calif.-based 3DR; Shenzhen, China-based DJI; and Paris-based Parrot were some of the founding members of the Small UAV Coalition back in 2014, but the four companies have exited the group and formed the new alliance.

Based in Washington, D.C., the Drone Manufacturers Alliance is managed by government relations firm Franklin Square Group. Kara Calvert, partner at the firm, has assumed the role of the group’s director.

“There are a lot of things happening in the policy landscape, and this group is really about advocacy and education,” Calvert tells UAO.

“The Drone Manufacturers Alliance believes a carefully balanced regulatory framework requires input from all stakeholders and must recognize the value and necessity of continued technological innovation,” the group said in a release earlier this month.

Speaking on the split from the Small UAV Coalition, Calvert says both groups maintain a common goal of making sure drones are integrated safely into national airspace, but these four manufacturers “wanted to come together with a real focus on a particular set of issues.” (GoPro is set to release its first drone, the Karma, later this year.)

These “primary manufacturers globally” for small, low-risk drones, she explains, linked up to “form a united voice on issues that are affecting both manufacturers and their customers of all types.”

Calvert says this includes hobbyist, commercial, civil, public and government operators: “We’re trying to make sure that customers of all types know the rules of the road before they put their drone up in the air.”

For example, she brings up the members’ partnerships with the Know Before You Fly UAS safety campaign, as well as the educational materials they place in their drones’ boxes.

“Most operators of drones want to comply with the rules,” Calvert notes. However, she explains, the alliance is there to help ensure that they do.

On the advocacy side, because the alliance is based in D.C., it is currently focused on the “federal landscape,” which includes working with both the FAA and Congress to push for a regulatory system that will allow these operators “to fly safely and confidently.”

Although in its infancy, the group has not wasted any time in getting to work: Though it’s in “very early stages of planning and organization,” she explains, the alliance is “very active right now” and oftentimes speaks hourly amongst members.

After all, there is, indeed, a lot happening on the regulatory side: the House’s and Senate’s proposed FAA reauthorization bills; the final rules for commercial UAS, to be released this spring; and the FAA aviation rulemaking committee’s proposition on drone flights taking place over people.

Most recently, the alliance was a co-signee of a letter to the U.S. Senate in opposition of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s recent FAA reauthorization amendment to overturn federal preemption for state and local drone laws.

On whether or not the group’s focus will shift when more policies are finalized, including the long-awaited final rules, Calvert maintains that the goal is to be helpful to consumers, be “good actors” and continue to work with policymakers as the regulations take shape. She also notes that it’s too early to say if the group will expand to more members.

“It’s safe to say that our focus is going to continue to be on the safe operations of drones in the low-risk category,” she says, adding that whatever the final rules may be, the Drone Manufacturers Alliance’s task is to help operators comply with them.

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