The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) announced the launch of the Partnership for Drone Competitiveness (Partnership), a coalition built to support a stronger U.S. drone industry, enable greater security for customers and end users, forge American leadership in advanced aviation, and effectively level the playing field for domestic and allied drone manufacturers against foreign subsidized competition.
The Partnership represents a coalition of leading U.S. and allied drone and drone component manufacturers and enterprise users of drones. Together, the group will advocate for targeted investments and common-sense policies that level the playing field against state-subsidized competitors and reduce dependence on foreign supply chains for components and rare earth materials.
Michael Robbins, Chief Advocacy Officer at AUVSI, said: “Today, we set the foundation for what will be the next generation of U.S. drone leadership with the launch of the Partnership for Drone Competitiveness. Recognizing that a strong domestic industry represents a strategic imperative in the new era of strategic competition, we look forward to introducing the Partnership to key audiences in Washington, DC and across the country as we ensure that America can meet the growing demand from industry and government. The Partnership is a critical step toward a strong and secure domestic drone industry and leveling the playing field against the unfair trade practices by the People’s Republic of China.”
Partnership supporters include AeroVironment, Arrive, Avangrid, BRINC Drones, Dark Wolf Solutions, Censys Technologies, Draganfly, DroneUp, Easy Aerial, MatrixSpace, MissionGO, Mobilicom, Near Earth Autonomy, Ondas Holdings, Phoenix Air Unmanned, ProximaVision, Skydio, Skyfish, Skyfront, Valor Robotics, Watts Innovations, Workhorse Aero, WISPR Systems, and members of AUVSI’s Air Advocacy Committee.
Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio, said: “Drones are the vanguard of a new era of aviation characterized by uncrewed and autonomous systems. At Skydio, we believe American innovation will define the future of flight, just as it gave rise to the birth of powered flight. As the first American drone company to produce drones at scale in the United States, we are proud to support AUVSI’s Partnership for Drone Competitiveness, which supports tailored measures to promote competitiveness, safeguard security, and advance American leadership. If the last decade of drones was defined by reliance on untrustworthy, manual drones, the next will be defined by the resiliency of a new breed of secure, autonomous drones.”
In addition to launching the Partnership, AUVSI today released a corresponding whitepaper detailing the Partnership’s inception, the challenges facing the industry, and policy recommendations for U.S. lawmakers and regulators. Among the whitepaper’s key findings are:
China Flooding the Market with Subsidized Drones: Chinese drones account for almost all of the drones used in consumer, industrial, and first responder markets, largely benefitting from “Made in China” economic policies bolstered by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The result of a market flooded by Chinese products represents a threat to the United States’ national security, aviation leadership and workforce development, and values and fundamental human rights.
The Need to Boost the U.S. Drone Industry: Incentivizing U.S. leadership in the drone industry represents a strategic imperative in a market long characterized by state-subsidized companies based in China. AUVSI believes it is essential to advance security and competitiveness in a thoughtful way that respects existing investments while building toward a more secure, sustainable future that puts U.S. interests first.
The Partnership will support policies and legislation which allow the U.S. to reposition itself as the global leader in advanced aviation. The Partnership intends to host an in-person, public event later this fall commemorating recent legislation. The Partnership’s recommended legislative actions include:
Supporting access to critical minerals;
Creating new federal grants for first responders and enhancing existing ones;
Enacting pending pieces of legislation including the Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant Act, the American Security Drone Act, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization;
And ensuring funding for and suitable transition periods for agencies transitioning from foreign made to secure drone fleets.
Brian Harrell, Former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security, said: “Because of how drones are operationally deployed, they have inherently unique access to sensitive systems and enterprise information. Organizations use this information to improve operations, secure U.S. critical infrastructure, identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, conduct search and rescue operations, and respond to natural disasters. Drones provide the data and imagery used for vital decision-making and planning. However, in the hands of the adversary, that same data offers the potential for data exfiltration, espionage, and exploitation. This is exactly the concern with Chinese-manufactured drone technology. Because Chinese drones are a threat to law enforcement and critical infrastructure operators, the US Government must act to mitigate.”
Blake Resnick, Founder and CEO of BRINC Drones, said: “China’s domination of drone manufacturing has been deliberately cultivated through aggressive government subsidies, direct investment, and strategic regulations to develop a domestic industry and gain a technological edge. At BRINC, we fully support AUVSI’s Partnership for Drone Competitiveness, as it highlights the deficiencies of US drone manufacturing and puts forward actionable items to fix them. For the U.S. to keep up on this critical technology, the federal government needs to establish programs of record to procure drones in bulk and to invest in U.S.-based manufacturing capacity.”
Rob Knochenhauer, Director of Regulatory Affair at Censys Technologies, said: “Censys Technologies is proud to support AUVSI’s Partnership for Drone Competitiveness to further contribute to AUVSI’s community advocacy efforts in order to promote the growth of the domestic drone industry. We look forward to continuing to work with our representatives to support implementation of existing policies – including the DIIG Act, ASDA, and NDAA — and to help develop sensible new policies to foster the American drone industry to develop higher quality, more affordable products that have less reliance on foreign contents.”
Anthony Vittone, COO of DroneUp, said: “DroneUp commends AUVSI for taking the initiative in creating the Partnership for Drone Competitiveness. We are honored to be part of this important effort and look forward to the progress the Partnership will make on behalf of the drone industry. As society continues to embrace and utilize drone technology, it is critical that policymakers focus on ensuring America’s continued global leadership in aviation. DroneUp is very encouraged by the focus Congress has put on drone policy in the 2023 FAA Reauthorization. This legislation, along with other critical economic tools that will nurture and incentivize a robust domestic drone industry are an important economic and national security priority. We thank AUVSI for launching this important effort and look forward to participating in its success.”
Greg Waters, CEO of MatrixSpace, said: “We’re on the cusp of a revolution around autonomous systems and their enabling technologies. The U.S. has a major role to play as both an innovator and maker of these breakthrough products, both for competitive leadership and in critical areas of national security. The opportunity to nurture this dynamic infrastructure with a range of U.S. policies is now and we are highly supportive of AUVSI’s efforts to drive this initiative for drone competitiveness.”
Claudio Lisman, President and CEO of ProximaVision, said: “We have all seen the relevance of drone applications in the defense and security sectors. Leaving the future leadership of drone technology to be pioneered and advanced by unfriendly foreign nations will be very detrimental to our national security and the safety of our country. We need our DoD, DHS, and NSA to provide every possible support, resources and assistance to U.S. drone manufacturers so that we can become the world leaders in the field and maintain our tactical and strategic technological superiority.”
Dr. Orest Pilskalns, CEO of Skyfish Corporation, said: “Building a deep pool of American drone technology, knowledge and capability is critically important for ensuring America’s future national security. As a country, we must create polices and funding for the American drone industry, to strengthen our domestic capabilities. We urge Congress to pass existing legislation like the Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant (DIIG) Act, the American Security Drone Act, and FAA Reauthorization, and to establish other incentives like manufacturing tax credits and loan guarantees to combat drones that are a threat to U.S. security. Also, ensuring suitable transition periods from foreign-made to American/Allied-made fleets, with funding attached, is a must.”
John McArthur, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at WISPR Systems, said: “We are confident that U.S. drone manufacturers can compete with anyone in the global drone market when given a level playing field. We want the U.S. to be the drone industry capital of the world, and doing so requires smart policy, grants, and tax credits for us to compete, grow, and thrive against foreign competitors. We believe the Partnership and AUVSI will steer us in that right direction.”