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Federal Drone Regulations Update: Diana Marina Cooper, PrecisionHawk

Are you up to date with the proposed FAA rulemaking and potential legislation on drones?

Well, don’t worry, because today’s guest is going to give us the details.  Diana Marina Cooper is the Senior Vice President of Policy & Strategy at PrecisionHawk, a commercial drone and data services company. Prior to joining PrecisionHawk, Diana developed and led the UAS and Robotics Practice Group at the law firm of LaBarge Weinstein.  Diana is the President of the Small UAV Coalition, an organization that represents leading technology companies engaged in UAS. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Energy Drone Coalition, the Advocacy Committee of AUVSI, and the Board of Unmanned Systems Canada. Diana is also a member of the FAA Drone Advisory Subcommittee.  Diana has testified before Senate Commerce and has briefed the House UAS Caucus on drone policy and regulations. She is one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to UAS policy.  On this edition of the Drone Radio Show, Diana talks about Precision Hawk and their efforts to advance Beyond Visual Line of Flight, the Small UAV Coalition, the Remote ID ARC and she’ll give us an update on the status of proposed federal UAS Rulemaking.

In This Episode

  • Introduction. Diana Cooper is the Vice President of Policy and Strategy at PrecisionHawk. PrecisionHawk is a seven year old company initially started as a hardware manufacturer.  More recently, the company has moved into creating software and data analytics solutions for many of their customer.
  • PrecisionHawk and UTM Solutions. PrecisionHawk had developed their “LATAS” solution, a software gives the drone operator situational awareness of the controlled airspace. The software provides notifications of the position of manned aircraft so a drone operator can avoid collisions and track real time location, so the drone doesn’t enter into restricted airspace or run into any obstacles or other issues. LATAS will support efforts to fly beyond visual line of sight, which Diana characterizes as the “killer app” for flying in controlled airspace and being able to do things like package delivery.
  • Small UAV Coalition. Diana is the President of the UAV Coalition, a top industry advocacy group for companies that are engaged in commercial operations using small UAV’s. The Coalition is engaged in a lot of advocacy for the industry. It works very closely with the F.A.A. and D.O.T. F.C.C. and other regulatory bodies, the White House and the different branches of government. One of the key things that the Coalition is advocating for is implementation of UTM.
  • FAA Reauthorization. In January the F.A.A. Administrator Michael Huerta was supposed to release the proposed rules for flight operations over people. That has been delayed, due to concerns over the security threat posed by UAV technology. As such, according to Diana, things are essentially at a regulatory standstill in regard to flight over people, beyond line of sight and other expanded operations. This year has really been the year of national security and drones so earlier in the year the FAA held a declassified security briefing to evaluate the threat. The findings of the Committee are confidential for now until the F.A.A. has a chance to analyze it and release the report. Other things that have been discussed are making changes to Section 27 last extension act which is essentially a set of provisions that enables drone operators to assist emergency responders. There is a six month extension of the current rules, which goes till the end of March
  • Drone Innovation Act. The general consensus among most industry players is that a patchwork of regulations, as would result through the passage of the Drone Innovation Act, would be a huge hinderance to the industry’s ability to operate safely, as well as to promote innovation in the air space. It’s possible that the F.A.A. and D.O.T. will could set up a pilot program where different states and different cities can actually test out what works best for all units of government.
  • Market Changes. Diana observes that there’s has already seen the hardware side of the markets become increasingly competitive, especially with DJI being the biggest player in the space. DJI has managed to make incredibly robust solutions out of very low cost and so that’s really made it very difficult for a lot of North American and European hardware manufacturers to compete. Customers are also looking for full end-to-end solutions, and that’s really where the market’s going in terms of technology becoming a lot more specialized and tailored. Right now the market for end-to-end solutions is still very much wide open.
  • Challenges. Diana sees two key challenges for the industry. The first is the increasing global competition and the role DJI will play in that competition. The final form and passage of regulations and rules, which could result in a patchwork of rules and regulations negatively affect the growth of the industry.
  • Personal Perspective. For Diana, being involved in the drone industry the past four years has been incredibly exciting. She was one of the first drone lawyers on the scene, and there are law practices in every major law firm globally. She’s also excited to get to the “Jetsons-Age” when we are going to see all sorts of cool applications in urban spaces.
  • Closing. Diana’s message is that the drone industry is an emerging technology and it already has a lot of challenges that need to overcome. That’s why it’s really important to have very thoughtful rules to help grow the industry in this increasingly global competition. It’s important not to overregulate something that’s so new and so exciting and has such tremendous potential to be a game changer for all of the legacy industry.

Mentioned Links

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    Federal Drone Regulations Update: Diana Marina Cooper, PrecisionHawk Drone Radio Show

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