AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne recently emphasized the growth of the commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) market, particularly among small businesses, in prepared testimony for the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations. He also pointed out the implementation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) small UAS rule allows even more businesses to take off.
“UAS increase human potential, allowing us to execute dangerous or difficult tasks safely and efficiently,” Wynne said in the prepared remarks. “From inspecting pipelines to surveying bridges to filming movies, UAS help save time, save money and, most importantly, save lives. It’s no wonder why thousands of businesses, small and large, have already embraced this technology, and many more are considering integrating it into their future operations.”
On August 29, the FAA implemented the small UAS rule, also known as Part 107. The rule established a flexible, risk-based approach to regulating civil and commercial UAS operations. Wynne’s testimony highlighted the great interest in commercial UAS since the rule took effect.
“On the first day the rule went into effect, more than 3,300 people had already signed up to take the aeronautical knowledge test, called the Unmanned Aircraft General (UAG) examination, which is one of the requirements under Part 107. Of the more than 530,000 people who have registered their UAS with the FAA since last December, about 20,000 have indicated they are commercial operators. The FAA expects that more than 600,000 UAS could be flying for commercial use over the next year,” Wynne said.
Prior to Part 107, individuals and companies had to receive an exemption from the FAA to fly UAS for commercial purposes. The FAA started granting these exemptions in September 2014. Wynne’s testimony outlined a recent AUVSI analysis of the businesses that were granted exemptions between then and when Part 107 took effect.
“Of the [5,200] businesses that received exemptions, the vast majority are small. Over 90 percent of these businesses make less than $1 million in annual revenue and have fewer than 10 employees,” Wynne said. “Our analysis also found that UAS are being used in all 50 states for over 40 different types of applications, including aerial photography, emergency management and utility inspection.”
A separate AUVSI report on the economic impact of UAS has forecasted the industry to create more than 100,000 new jobs and more than $82 billion in economic impact within the first ten years following UAS integration into the national airspace.
Wynne praised the industry-government collaboration that has facilitated the progress in UAS regulation in the last few years. He credited Congress and President Obama for passing an FAA extension earlier this year that will advance UAS research, expand commercial operations and enhance the safety of the national airspace for all users.
But, Wynne emphasized, there is still progress to be made.
“[W]e are hopeful that the sustained efforts of all parties will help pave the way for a true, holistic plan for full UAS integration that includes beyond line of sight operations, flights over people, access to higher altitudes and platforms above 55 pounds,” Wynne said.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics — represents more than 7,500 members from more than 60 countries involved in the fields of government, industry and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.