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How do Drones fit into the national plans for our infrastructure?

Brigham McCownFor that question, we turn to Brigham A. McCown, Chairman and Founder of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.  AII is an independent, national, educational organization dedicated to identifying our nation’s infrastructure needs, creating awareness of those needs and developing public-private partnerships to address those issues. Their goal is to create higher standards by promoting innovative technologies and safer outcomes for national infrastructure projects. Brigham has more than 28 years of executive management, legal, and operational experience at the local, national, and international levels of government. In addition to serving as the Chairman of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, he also serves as the Chairman and CEO of Nouveau Inc. and is a Managing Shareholder of Kilgore / McCown, PLLC. He’s a former senior executive at the United States Department of Transportation, and current entrepreneur and philanthropist. We’re fortunate to have him with us today.  Drones have surfaced on the Alliance’s radar as a promising innovative technology and because of the potential to support our country’s infrastructure goals.  On this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Brigham talks about the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, it’s mission and objectives and how drones fit into the overall agenda.

In This Episode

  • [02:39] Introduction. Brigham A. McCown is Chairman and Founder of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.
  • [02:54] About AII. The Alliance is an independent, national, educational organization dedicated to identifying our nation’s infrastructure needs, creating awareness of those needs and developing public-private partnerships to address those issues. The organization was created to advance the needs of infrastructure, which wasn’t being addressed by the government.
  • [04:00] Products. The Alliance produces information and educational materials geared to Washington, D.C. policy makers, government agencies and administrators. It also provides information to the general consumer on infrastructure and innovation. The majority of the products produced are for informational purposes only.
  • [05:12] Infrastructure. The Alliance looks at a broad spectrum of infrastructure needs, and includes technology and access. One of the reasons the Alliance was formed was to draw attention to the many different infrastructure needs in the country and shine a light on the needs to make improvements or modify policies / approaches.
  • [06:43] Drones and AII. AII not just an infrastructure advocacy group, they are also an innovation advocacy agency.  Drones are a new technology that could transform our society. The Alliance recognizes these opportunities and is working to advance the safe use and operation of drones. In particularly, AII is working with governmental agencies to recommend changes in Federal regulations that will support drone use and growth in the industry.
  • [09:20] Working With the Alliance. Brigham talks about how people can work with AII if they have questions or want to work towards common goals.
  • [11:13] What Federal Officials Say. Brigham shares some insights into what Federal government officials say about drones. Officials are very supportive of the technology, but there are concerns with ensuring the safe operation of drones.  Regulations were not designed with drones in mind and making changes at the Federal level takes a lot of time and energy.  Brigham also talks about how demonstration projects and test sites are one way to help fast track changes at the Federal level.
  • [13:54] Results to Date. The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure has been in existence for four years. Brigham talks about some of the results of the public-private partnerships, in particular the growth of broadband technology. There has been progress in the recognizing the needs for infrastructure investments and new transportation systems, but there is much that remains in these areas.
  • [15:48] Drone Use. One of the big areas of opportunity for drones could be in infrastructure inspections. There has been some progress in allowing drones to operate beyond visual line of sight. Brigham mentions a couple of railroad companies that have received approval to use drones for inspections of railroad lines.
  • [16:44] Opportunities. Brigham sees a lot opportunities for commercial drone use, but there are challenges for DE conflicting air space and making the air space safe. On a broader level, there are big opportunities for vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems and smart highways that can help create a more efficient transportation system.  It could even affect the design of future transit systems, which integrates autonomous vehicles in the operation. Drones will be first used for their sensor technology first, like inspections and eventually, other major applications will come about.
  • [21:51] Advice to Drone Industry. Brigham talks about the need for the drone industry to focus on how best to de-conflict airspace, particularly where there is a large number of drone operating. As drone usage grows, the potential for conflicts or mishaps increases. Mitigating those risks should be a focus today.
  • [22:45} State and Local Regulations. Brigham talks about the conflicts between Federal, State and Local law. Ideally, the regulations should be consistent, but if the Federal government moves too slow, oftentimes, States and Local governments tend to move forward because they can’t wait any longer.
  • [24:08] Closing. Brigham closes by talking about how we improve our lives on a daily basis through innovation, technology and improvements in our infrastructure.

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