The National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Initiative Act was recently presented by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK). The legislation’s stated goal is “(T)o provide for a coordinated Federal initiative to accelerate research and development of unmanned aircraft systems for advanced air mobility and civilian applications for economic and national security, among other purposes.”
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology stated in a press release that the bill’s goals included the creation of a counter-UAS center of excellence to enhance response to threats from adversaries using uncrewed systems, the authorization of a Network of Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Research Institutes, workforce expansion to integrate UAS across all economic sectors, and more.
Joshua Levine, a Technology and Innovation Policy Analyst at the American Action Forum, examined the contents of the bill in a post published on the website of his group last month. To understand more about the benefits, drawbacks, and potential effects of the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Initiative Act, Levine is interviewed.
- Please provide us with some background information about the American Action Forum before we discuss the measure.
- Levine: The American Action Forum, a 501(c)(3) think tank, approaches federal legislation with a data-driven, economic policy-focused perspective. Our goal is to give legislators comprehensive, market-based analyses on any concerns or inquiries they may have about proposed legislation or regulations. On the technology and innovation team, I work as a policy analyst. My work covers a wide range of topics, including artificial intelligence, content moderation, kids’ online safety, drones, and low-Earth orbit satellites.
- Several proposals have been presented in recent months to advance UAV and AAM technology in the US, including one to reauthorize UAS test sites, boost R&D, and another to change the procedure for requesting BVLOS waivers from the FAA. What role does the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Initiative Act play in advancing technology?
- Levine: The main goals of this legislation are to support domestic production and further drone research and development. The federal government’s interest in addressing some of the impediments to commercialization excites me. I think it’s a good idea to have a team within the federal government to “quarterback” agency collaboration and manage investments to make sure money is spent wisely and that we have a clear roadmap of where we’re going and what the federal government should be doing to help promote adoption and commercialization—and where the private sector should be allowed to innovate. Additionally, I believe that funding for colleges and more general R&D is great.
- You list the advantages and disadvantages of the measure in your essay. One of the “cons,” according to your argument, is that the law “does not address ongoing issues with the FAA and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) standards.” How should these flaws be corrected? How can the FAA enhance BVLOS regulations while maintaining security?
- Levine: The GAO report, which was released at the beginning of 2023, and a few ARC reports examined the BVLOS rules’ deficiencies in the FAA’s approach. They saw that the way they were monitoring development was inconsistent. They weren’t sure exactly how to measure performance. So, how does success appear? Now that there have been three or four reports on BVLOS, stakeholders have complained that not enough has been done to operationalize what needs to be done. We have indicators from the most recent ARC report that discuss acceptable levels of risk, and I believe we should be moving more quickly than we are right now on those lower levels of acceptable risk. I recognize that worries about safety will be the driving force behind this, and that’s extremely essential, both economically and in terms of public trust. However, I do believe that the FAA could be doing more to speed up this process, and many other people agree with me.