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Drone Day at the Capitol: What We Learned

Daniel Katz -

Yesterday, Aerotas CEO Logan Campbell and I spent the day in Sacramento, doing our part to help inform lawmakers on the drone industry. We participated in the Drone Information Day at the State Capitol, hosted by the California Technology and Innovation Caucus, Consumer Technology Association, and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The goal of the day was to highlight to lawmakers the ways that drones are positively impacting California and their constituents, offering a counter-narrative to the negativity that tends to dominate headlines. The day presented a unique mix of private meetings and public interaction, via a public display and demo area on the lawn of the Capitol building. 


A public display showed lawmakers how the public positively Views drones

The public exposé not only created an opportunity for those in the public to interact with and learn about the technology, but it also allowed lawmakers to see the public's interest for themselves. Considering how often legislators’ positions can be informed by limited information and minimal personal interaction, the opportunity for legislators to gauge how the public is perceiving this technology was invaluable.

  Displays on the Capitol's north lawn allowed the public to interact with the drone industry

Displays on the Capitol's north lawn allowed the public to interact with the drone industry

  A demonstration area allowed people who would not normally have the opportunity to see how UAVs work in a safe, positive environment

A demonstration area allowed people who would not normally have the opportunity to see how UAVs work in a safe, positive environment

the drone industry spoke with one voice: give us clear and consistent rules

The private meetings with lawmakers offered a rare and optimistic insight into how the industry is thinking about its relationship with legislators, now and going forward. The mix of participants in my group alone illustrates the industry's diversity: Amazon, Intel, DJI — the largest drone manufacturer in the world, Mota — manufacturer of the smallest drones in the world, Yamaha, and Aerotas. Taken together, these companies represent nearly every angle of the drone industry: consumer drone manufacturing and retail, commercial drone manufacturing and utilization, drone component manufacturing, and investment. 


Alignment across the drone industry

One theme in the meetings that stood out was how aligned the drone businesses were, despite the diversity of businesses represented. Only rarely did one company representative address an issue that exclusively concerned his or her business, at the exclusion of others. Further, at no point was an opinion expressed that ran counter to what would be in the interest of Aerotas or our clients. These conversations encouraging heartening evidence that the UAV industry is speaking with a consistent voice.


Regulate drones clearly and consistently

A second theme of note from the meetings is what the industry was not asking lawmakers to do. At no point did I hear a representative of any company ask that law makers avoid creating regulation. Instead what was consistently requested was clarity and consistency. As DJI’s Jon Resnick pointed out: the fact that over half a million people have registered drones in the FAA’s system since December demonstrates that drone users want to comply with regulation. Rampant noncompliance would present a substantial threat to the industry, and the best way to avoid noncompliance is with regulations that are consistent across jurisdictions and easy for anyone — hobbyist, professional, manufacturer, or investor — to understand and follow.

  Assemblyman Evan Low addresses Drone Information Day

Assemblyman Evan Low addresses Drone Information Day

On the whole, the Drone Information Day offered an optimistic view of the future of communication and cooperation between lawmakers and the drone industry. Our thanks to the hosting organizations, as well as tech caucus co-chairs Assemblymembers Ian Calderon and Evan Low for their participation and pioneering work to create responsible UAV legislation.




Daniel is Cofounder and Head of Strategy of Aerotas. He has a rich background in strategy and innovation consulting, helping businesses from startups to the Fortune 500 identify opportunities for innovation. Daniel is passionate about helping organizations see and incorporate new ideas into their business operations.