Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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48 unmanned systems inside   December 2017/January 2018 it's a pretty good indication that there's no con- cern that there's no federal money." There is real concern, however, about a lack of resources for the FAA—a problem that has hampered programs in the past. The agency's experience after it selected its six UAS test ranges is telling. It didn't have the money to contract with them at first, markedly slowing progress, The money shortages even sty- mied FAA researchers' ability to collect the data that the ranges were generating in cooperation with their private sector clients. That data was largely what the ranges were created to generate. Progress could be slowed again if the FA A can't fully support the IP2 program or reach beyond the five initial teams. "Obviously the resources that we have with- in the department and the FAA will limit how many different programs we can launch and op- erate," said Lawrence, "but it doesn't end there. We're getting started and we'll continue, as re- sources allow, to support additional operations." "What we saw in previous examples where we adopted a waiver process is that a couple of folks out the gate get a waiver and then the backlog becomes significant, so you have folks like the Southern Company waiting a year in order to get a waiver," William Goodwin, general coun- sel for AirMap, told a November 29 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. Where Congress can act, he said, "is to help support the pilot program and ensure that it has the re- sources necessary to start a lot of commercial operations in that mechanism." Ellman wants to ensure the agency isn't forced to divert resources away from other vital efforts to support the IP2 program. "There are some really great things that are happening right now," Ellman told Inside Unmanned Systems, including work to broad- ly authorize f lights beyond visual line of sight, flights at night and flights over people. "We want to make sure that those don't stall in the wake of everything else, don't come to a halt because all of the staffing is put only on the pilot program." "There is a willingness for Congress to in- crease FAA funding more generally on UAS," Drobac said. "We've seen that in the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) appro- priations bill for FY18 (fiscal year 2018). Now, of course, there was no pilot program at the time—but in terms of R&D and FAA staffing and resources I think Congress is willing to in- crease as may be necessary." If Congress were to step up with funding to expand IP2 it could make the program more creative and effective—and potentially far broader. "I think funding is a critical issue," Ellman said. "I mean as it is you're only going to have states and localities or folks with a lot of money that are able to participate." Time And it's not just an issue of money. The sudden announcement of IP2 and the tight timeline to turn in the first proposals—over the holidays no less—is putting just about any organization that didn't already have an inside track at a dis- advantage. The first five teams are almost cer- tain to be anchored by firms like Amazon and Google who are have been deeply involved in developing UAS for some time, said one expert. Not that there is anything wrong with opening a pathway for companies who have a clear and well-supported commitment to unmanned oper- ations. The program as it stands, however, likely leaves behind organizations like universities— whose labs and grad students are legendary gen- erators of innovation and start-up companies. One student told FAA he wanted to convince his school to participate but was "finding it difficult to communicate with my university in order to send a notice of intent before the deadline." The "schedule requires proposal delivery the day after we all get back from the holiday break," said another FAA webinar attendee. "This will reduce the quantity and…likely prevent serious responses and good ideas that are unable to be built into the proposal given the approval pro- WASHINGTON VIEW by DEE ANN DIVIS "I THINK FUNDING IS A CRITICAL ISSUE. I MEAN AS IT IS YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO HAVE STATES AND LOCALITIES OR FOLKS WITH A LOT OF MONEY THAT ARE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE." Lisa Ellman, co-executive director, Commercial Drone Alliance.

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