Last week, we looked at what a Trump presidency could mean for the drone industry. This week, we’ll take a look at what Hillary might have in store for drones, based on her stated positions and the issues she supports. We’re neutral parties – except for being firmly behind innovation and the drone business.
Technology and Innovation
Let’s start with the positive: the drone economy is a tech economy, and Hillary Clinton claims investment in technology and innovation as one of her issues.
Clinton promises to invest in STEM education, high tech jobs, and innovative industry, and she proposes to offer student loan relief for graduates who start new companies. She is committed to net neutrality, technology access and an information economy; Slate.com recently reported that Hillary’s technology platform was “surprisingly solid.” While all of the above may help the drone industry indirectly, the real and concrete help could come from the top down: “… she’ll take action to reduce federal regulatory barriers—like appointing a new chief innovation officer whose job it is to reduce hurdles that stifle the development of new products and services,” says Sarah Solow, Hillary’s Domestic Policy Advisor. If the new chief innovation officer decided that drones were could business, a top down push to remove regulatory challenges might be just what the drone industry needs.
Ask any drone industry stakeholder to name the fastest growing applications for drones, and you are bound to hear precision agriculture mentioned. Precision agriculture – and the use of drones – is big business, and expanding rapidly as the return on investment becomes crystal clear.
Hillary promises to invest in rural America: and part of the promise is in putting technology infrastructure in place, and linking technology entrepreneurs with farmers. Clinton says that her plan to connect investors with opportunities in rural communities will promote high paying technology jobs in those areas as well as increase the productivity and efficiency of farms – and that sounds like a perfect match for drones.
But not all of Clinton’s proposals look good for the drone industry – some of her plans do have the potential to slow things down.
Major Wall Street Reform
While political hacks on either side might argue about the potential effects of Wall Street reform, nobody can really predict the future. But in listing risks to innovative technology, a major change in the regulatory structure around investment has to be a factor. Clinton promises that kind of change, saying that she will tighten regulations and significantly increase penalties for “irresponsible behavior” in order to protect investors.
Drone tech investment took off in 2015, topping $800 million: as with any new industry, drone innovation is dependent upon generous funding for startups developing new technologies. Should a major adjustment in the rules for investment cause a slowdown in the flow to startups – even a temporary one, while firms readjust – that could have a negative impact on a young industry.
With additional confusion over Clinton’s planned systemic changes to tax structure and wage structure, there could be a dampening effect on new startups.
As the political battles continue to wage, both candidates are fighting to lay claim to the economy – and the drone business could be a significant factor in the fight to create more high paying jobs and export more American products and expertise.