News from around the Northwest about drones and unmanned systems from the Cascade Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
AUVSI Cascade's "Drones, Droids and Unmanned Systems" - September 28th - 29th, 2017
Our planning continues for AUVSI Cascade Chapter's next big unmanned systems and robotics event, "Drones, Droids and Unmanned Systems," at beautiful Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa in Warm Springs, Oregon. Chapter President Tom Hagen and Vice President Jeff Ratcliffe met with resort staff June 22nd to continue laying the ground work for a successful conference. While details are still coming together, we plan on a full day of conference speakers, panels, and a drone demo Thursday, September 28th, our Second Annual AUVSI STEM Benefit Dinner that evening, and a Part 107 Remote Operators' Workshop Friday morning. We even are looking into the First Annual Cascade Golf Tournament for Friday afternoon. Of course, we'll also offer ample sponsor opportunities and networking events embedded in the schedule so you can make the most of the great folks and companies our events attract. Notably, this will be the second time AUVSI Cascade has been hosted by the resort, the last being in early October of 2014 when over 150 participants enjoyed the warm hospitality and great venue features of Kah-Nee-Ta. We plan on opening registration by July 15th and we'll have more details here on the website in the coming weeks as our agenda develops. This will be one of our best ever conferences so save the dates today and plan on coming for the conference and enjoying the weekend playing in central Oregon's vacationland!
An Event for the History Books
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas was the site of Xponential 2017 May 7th - 11th, an event likely to be hailed as AUVSI's "best ever" international unmanned systems and robotics event. Truly "All Things Unmanned," AUVSI hosted more than 7,500 attendees and featured over 650 vendors on the show floor. Add to that over 200 educational sessions with hundreds of the world's experts in unmanned systems and robotics and you have an innovative explosion of...well, Texas proportions!
Keynotespeakers opened each morning of Xponential. Day 1 featured Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel and Chair of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. Brian detailed how unmanned systems and the data they collect are shaping the future. Calling data "the new oil," Brian made a compelling case by interspersing his presentation with a new Segway robot vehicle, "Loomo" to bring him on to the stage and fetch him a bottle of water, a UAS to deliver his slide "clicker," and a scale model bridge to demonstrate an infrastructure inspection using an Intel drone andplanning and analysis software. Day 2 included presentations by Brian Chappel, Sector VP and GM for Autonomous Systems at Northrop Grumman, Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Aerial, and Michael Huerta, the FAA Administrator. Brian emphasized that, in spite of the growth and sophistication of autonomous systems, the goal is not to replace people, but to have them be safer and more engaged and definitely preserve them as the oversight in autonomous systems. Dirk Hoke unveiled Airbus Aerial, an unmanned systems-centric data services group that will combine satellite and UAS data into products made specific for customers by merging them in the cloud. Michael Huerta noted the rapid evolution of UAS and the challenges presented to the FAA. He observed that there have been 820,000 drones registered since December2015and about 43,000 commercial operators have earned Remote Pilot certificates since last August under Part 107.
Day 3 keynoters included Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia who promoted his Commonwealth as "leaning in" to the unmanned systems and robotics evolution as an offset to government and military employment that has anchored Virginia's economy for so long. The results of his efforts include many companies taking advantage of Virginia's favorable business climate to move there and partner in the state's unmanned ecosystem. Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware, and Brad Tomer, COO of Avitas Systems, a GE Venture, anchored a candid panel discussion about the business challenges and opportunities they've experienced and see coming in the future. Finally, Jim Cantore, the meteorologist from the Weather Channel, hosted the plenaries and even arrived one morning in a driverless car that brought him to the stage.
Out on the show floor, this year's show seemed to feature more integrated offerings - full systems including planning and execution systems as well as data analysis capabilities. There were plenty of platforms with ever increasing capabilities, but there were also end-to-end systems that recognized the value of the data in a large spectrum of missions ranging from precision agriculture to infrastructure inspections and first responder events as well as many others. Foreign companies had a major presence, highlighting that this show is truly an international event. On the education side, presentations abounded about technologies, missions, regulatory initiatives and research and development activities.
AUVSI Cascade Chapter had great participation at Xponential 2017 from our Board and membership. We had 8 Board Members present and countless chapter members among the nearly 7,500 attendees. President Tom Hagen and Vice President Jeff Ratcliffe participated in the Council Chapter Leadership Meeting May 7th which included representatives from all of AUVSI's chapters. Discussion centered on how we can better engage our membership, provide better value while still adhering to our key tenets of advocacy, community, education and growth. Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI, noted that "our membership is our political capital" in dealing with other agencies, legislatures and local and regional entities. Tom McMahon, AUVSI Advocacy Director, noted that the economic impact of unmanned systems is exploding, expected to be $140B over the next 10 years. Such impact makes smart legislation an imperative and he believes education of the legislators as well as local and regional administrators is key to ensuring good laws are formulated by informed public officials.
The Pacific Northwest was well represented with tens of exhibitors and featured speakers at many of the education sessions. Additionally, SOAR Oregon, the non-profit economic development and trade organization whose mission is to promote the development, expansion and support of the unmanned UAS test ranges in Oregon, not only manned an information-rich booth, but also sponsored a networking event called "Sip and SOAR." That event provided yet another networking forum to promote the many attributes of Oregon test ranges.
Next year's Xponential will be in Denver, Colorado April 30th - May 3rd. Hope to see you there!
Help Inform Our Lawmakers!
April 19, 2017
Oregon UAS Legislative Update
AUVSI Cascade Chapter continues to track legislation on UAS in both the Oregon and Washington legislatures. In Oregon, an amended version of HB 3049 was approved out of the House Judiciary Committee April 18th. As passed, this bill prohibits all drone operations that may harass, or otherwise annoy, an owner/occupant of property. Importantly, this bill takes no consideration of thenature of the operations – all thatmatters is that the property owner/occupant feels harassed or annoyed. Also, anamendment that would have exempted commercial operations authorized by the FAA was considered, but rejected.
Representative Huffman, the bill’s author and proponent, "promised" the committee that when the bill moves over to the Senate he will be offering an amendment that will permit certain commercial operations. According to him, the amendment isn’t quite ready for prime time. Specifically, Representative Huffman referred to the use cases of Amazon deliveries, AT&T transmission inspections, and public utilities as types of operations they would work on exempting. Unfortunately, he did indicate that blanket “commercial operations” would be too porous of an exception in his opinion. While it’s good that some deference is being shown to the industry, it is generally a recipe for bad law to only have specific use cases in mind when crafting legislation – particularly when dealing with a rapidly growing industry.
Please reach out to your contacts and impress upon them that there is a discussion occurring within the FAA leadership in supporting how local law enforcement can pursue drone operators who violate existing privacy laws and regulations. This is important as clearly we face the challenge that there is real concern coming from the communities about what is being done to prevent perceived harassing activities.
Please request that our legislators reach out to the FAA to use the support programs that they (FAA) have for drafting legislation. This will not only take advantage of the FAA's long-standing airspace management expertise, but it will also hold both the legislators and the FAA accountable for rule making consistency across our nation vice the alternative of a hodge-podge of local or regional rules.
The two documents, the links for which are below, are from the FAA and are designed to help law enforcement address UAS issues. Please encourage our legislators to pursue these education programs that give law enforcement the tools they need to address those activities potentially perceived as harassment. Our UAS community and our communities writ large will both benefit - all while making the lawmakers' jobs easier since they won't have to invent potentially bad solutions!