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Needed - Organized sUAV, Drone Organization - Membership Drive United Voice

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Stimulated by the recent discussions on Remote ID and FAA NPRM released to public on Dec 26th.
Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems
This action would require the remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems. The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace of the United States would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft...
www.federalregister.gov

A good discussion on the matter...
The Good the Bad and the Ugly Remote ID Proposal

Some YouTubes on the Remote ID NPRM.
Pilot Institute:
Drone U:


Within several drone forums discussion on the subject of the FAA NPRM, and other legal issues there's a consistent variable asked; Why is there no sUAV Organization with a membership body and representative voice?

This is a NEED and it's NEEDED NOW.
Joining the AOPA is a start... but I think an organized "name" representing the sUAV community would have greater impact.
Drone Membership 2018

I'd join an sUAV organized membership in a second... and spread the word for others to do the same!
The question is HOW... WHOM and the variables in the process to reality and make it happen.

Would an establishment with a presence be a quick start avenue... I'm currently not a member (not yet) but would DroneU be a candidate? Others?

I've only been in the sUAV society for a small number of years, but I've been a bit stunned that there hasn't been an organized sUAV membership... especially when it involves aerial and often subject to negative media.

It's been commented it's too late to get into action, I personally don't think it's too late, and if not now, when is It appropriate to begin?
As much and as quickly the recent Remote ID discussions rippled through the Internet, a think a membership drive would get a good start.
I'm probably not the best suited, but I'd be willing to help in some fashion if it would require "manpower" hours.

Per noted at the bottom of the this forum... this is one of many sister sUAV forums that probably gets the attention of the majority of drone readers seeking web information. Why not post at the header of each forum a new sUAV organization, membership drive. That and "word of mouth" passing the info would provide a good start. Many 3rd Party developers of sUAV software, hardware and tools; I'm sure many would be supportive of the sUAV Organization & post the info on their sites too.

Many NRA members are members for the "sole purpose" of protection of gun rights via a unified voice. I would think a sUAV membership would be similar. It would be a central voice, a good exchange society, and could include sponsor incentives & discounts.

Questions to consider:
Focused on USA or include charters for Global membership?
Price of membership?
Personally, my opinion is if this would be a representative voice, with talented representatives; helpful if included legal minds too. I'd gladly contribute $100-200 annually, more if it's political / legal representative voice provided impact.

Anyone have helpful contribution to get a forward momentum... Pipe In!
 
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PatR

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DCJ,

Just to let you know, three people worked at starting such an organization back in 2014 but their primary focus was the commercial operator. The organization was the ACUAS and their intentions were great but the three staring members were still working for a living and could not totally devote themselves to building and promoting the organization. There was also a bit of an issue with funding everything that needed to be done with a non paying membership. Ultimately they did not complete what they set out to do and went separate ways. The website might even still be active, but I doubt it. ACUAS.org. I know this because I was one of the three, along with the owner of Aerial Alchemy and one other person. Now you know how I became acquainted with Aerial Alchemy.

Be that as it may, I fully agree there is a critical need for a truly representative body for the sUAS operators. I doubt that bay now anyone disagrees. Whatever organization it might be cannot be dedicated to only one sector, recreational or commercial, or primarily represent one sector while paying just lip service to the others. The laws that have been passed, and those that continue to be passed, impacts everyone that flies sUAS, drones, multirotors, RC airplanes, RC helicopters, RC gliders, or anything else that is flown using a remote transmitter. For the purpose of amplifying the previous sentence, sUAS should also include large RC model aircraft that exceed the FAA's 55lb. maximum weight as there are quite a few of them in existence. The descriptions get a bit confusing as all of them are classified by the media and the FAA as "drones".

Whomever and whatever the organization may be, they need to be able to "hit the ground running". There is no time left to be creating a mission statement and organizational structure. They need to already know their cost basis and the fee structure needed to finance their operations. They must have already established their office "footprint" having all the staff and equipment necessary to dive into mass marketing, phone and internet campaigning, and direct mail notifications. They need to be experienced in Washington DC lobbying, acutely knowledgeable with all things aviation, have a strong legal team.

The AMA is absolutely out of the question for a multitude of reasons, the least of which was and is their failure to recognize that what was to impact the commercial operator was certainly going to impact the recreational operator, as has and continues to do. To date, the AMA is more focused on preserving a few flying fields in order to preserve the revenue stream supporting the headquarters staff. Their non profit corporation class prohibits political lobbying, removing them as a potential political force to support sUAS and sUAS airspace access. With a membership of ~195,000 paying dues of ~$75.00/yr it seems ludicrous that, after what unfolded in the original ARC committee, they have failed to organize a sub organization devoted to lobbying for airspace rights and protection for ALL aero modelers. That they failed to support the lawsuit brought by a single individual against the FAA to overturn the registration rule was especially egregious, adding more evidence of their lack of support for the aero modeler.

I just don't see any of the small, new sUAS groups as having the means or the experience necessary to go head to head in DC with the FAA and the FAA's corporate masters. Even established players are going to have to work hard to make headway, and likely have to modify or contradict some of the positions they've previously espoused. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) is a group I considered but they are too small of a unified body to take us on in the manner that needs be done. They also collaborate a lot with the AOPA to accomplish some goals, but I just don't feel they are strong enough to get it done. We also need as many people as possible, preferably everyone that flies RC and drones, to join a single organization. Which means it has to be relatively affordable. AT $470.00/yr or $47.00/mo, Drone U falls well outside of the affordable category for a great many people. We are in a situation where united we might stand but divided we will certainly fall, and we can't have what I'll call "elitists" or the wealthy call the shots. In effect, that's what is happening now.

Because of their history and lobbying experience, combined with their knowledge of aviation and the National Airspace System, I view the AOPA as the one organization that could get things done in the timeline we have in front of us. To do that we have to kind of understand the AOPA, and recognize their focus for manned aviation will have to be "leveraged" to shift their focus more heavily on drone regulations. The latest AOPA membership numbers I've been able to obtain show them having~350,000 members in 2014. The membership has been steadily decreasing. In 2010 the membership was 414,224. In 2012 that number was 384,915. Membership has been in decline since the mid 1990's, and the declining membership, along with the decline of the pilot population in general, is largely why the AOPA has for the past few years been heavily focused on making it easier to pilots back into the left seat. Basic Med was an AOPA creation. The removal of privatized ATC services for manned aviation from the FAA Re-authorization Act was largely due to the AOPA. The creation of the Light Sport aircraft category was strongly driven by the AOPA. I mention those to establish a very small list of their vast accomplishments in promoting aviation. They get it done!

It's my opinion that much of what the AOPA has been doing has been, perhaps similar to the AMA, is working to assure their own survival. With a long declining membership the AOPA has been initiating programs and legislation that will increase the pilot population, and by extension, increase theirs. This is where numbers come into play as a means of "leveraging" the organization. We might view it like a hostile takeover. Some representative numbers, with links to the data, are noted below.

As of December 31, 2018 there were 633,317 active manned aviation pilots in the U.S.
U.S. Civil Airmen Statistics

As of 12/10/19
There were 160,748 certificated remote pilots. These are all Part 107 operators
There were 1,509,617 registered drones
Of those, 420,340 were commercially registered drones
Of the registered drones, 1,085,392 were recreational registrations. Consider that one registration covers as many recreational drones as you own so that million+ number represents individual operators, not aircraft.
UAS by the Numbers

Playing with the numbers a little, if we add the number of certificated 107 pilots to the number of recreational registrations, we might have a drone pilot population as high as 1,246,140. That number dwarfs the manned pilot population, and by any standard is a significant voting group.

If we look at full scale aircraft registered in the U.S. we arrive at some interesting counts. Our drones seriously outnumber them. From a 2019 AOPA report covering up to 2017, there were:
130,330 single engine aircraft
12,935 multi engine aircraft
9430 turboprop aircraft
14,075 turbojet aircraft
10,805 rotor craft
27,865 experimental aircraft
2,585 light sport aircraft

For a total of ~208,025 registered active manned aircraft.
http://download.aopa.org/hr/Report_on_General_Aviation_Trends.pdf

If we shift our thoughts back to the AOPA, an organization with a basic annual membership fee of $79.00 and a last listed membership count of ~350,000 (2014), a sudden massive influx of new members, all of whom are drone flyers, has a high probability of causing AOPA executive management shifting both focus and view, or at least adjusting their view to be considerably more supportive than they have been. With enough new drone members sending e-mails to the managing director it would quickly become evident that drone operators had just become a very large part of, if the the largest part of, the AOPA revenue generation stream. Losing the drone members due to lack of official support would incur a massive loss of sorely needed revenue. That's the hostile takeover part, and money is what you use for leverage. The part we need to understand is the AOPA already has everything we desperately need. They are well positioned in government and within the FAA. They are a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. They have the lobbyists. They KNOW airspace and airspace regulations. They know how to plan and network. That they also have other services we can take advantage is just extra candy.
 
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Pat, Great collection of info and insight!
The history with Aerial Alchemy was clearly apparent in previous posts & expressions... the filler makes sense.
I'm sorry to hear that didn't succeed... looking back, do you think that might have been a little ahead of it's time? The growth has been substantial since 2014.

Your own numbers and stats clearly show we have the population to get something off the ground... even if we deduct 25-35% as non-participating until they "see" an organization to join.

The costs should be more membership "donation" dues and encourage more voluntary council members. If it failed, the startup membership isn't refunded but absorbed as startup costs. The council members would initially need to respect the same... it's a startup and lacks individual monetary gains.

Picking that back up... Ya know... You'd make a great council member on a sUAV Pilot's Organization.
Your interest is Pilots and the small businesses, and great collective & debating knowledge for the table.
;)

On a sister site... Inspire, it was suggested the AUVSI may meet the needs.
My minimal exposure sees their focused effort more towards larger companies benefits.

The OAPA conceptually makes great sense, but I haven't seen or read any strong desire to represent the sUAV community... specifically the Pilots and small business. If that could be developed, that would be a great voice for the sUAV community.

Each time something comes up that may have sUAV impact, I'm amazed their hasn't been a sUAV Pilot's Organizaton developed over the last few years.
 

Fred Garvin

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The NPRM was the dominant topic last Sunday at our monthly meeting of the Lonestar Chapter of AUVSI. It’s barely been a week since this turd dropped, and it’s over the Christmas/NYE holidays. Once everyone gets back to the normal work week things will start to happen.

As far as AUVSI is concerned, our Chapter President advised us that yes, the National Organization is well aware of the NPRM. They’re engaging the legal team and will be carefully going over this and the options that will be available. National will be organizing local chapter efforts and member feedback over the next few weeks to better chart a way forward to maximize influence and communication.

As of today there’s not much more available other than what the FAA dropped officially yesterday.....and a whole crapload of panic’d opinions, wild guesses, and fatalist prognostications.....all of which, considering the very long timeframe and certain changes to come....are nothing more than initial reaction venting.

DroneU’s Paul and Vic are hosting an open Webinar this Saturday at 4:00pm MST. All are invited:

 

DoomMeister

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There are several GA pilots that are members on the forum that obviously participate in both manned and unmanned forms of piloting. Some are most likely members of AOPA and know of its influence in Washington DC.

I don’t know about a “hostile” takeover of AOPA, but a strong integration of sUAS pilots could be very beneficial for both groups. It would strengthen AOPA’s numbers and monetary power to combat this roughshod takeover of low altitude airspace.

@PatR would likely be a good spokesperson to poll AOPA’s governing membership to see if they are agreeable to a vastly increased membership and would be prepared to represent our interests.

@Fred Garvin posted as I was writing this. So I need to go see what AUVSI is all about.
 
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PatR

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Having followed the antics of the AUVSI since 2005, I share Patrick Eagan's opinions of their inability to complete anything of importance. Aside of acquiring money to pay their board members and promoting the heavy UAV industry in a manner that strongly resembles a circle jerk they haven't done anything of consequence to assist the small UAV people like us. As they are also a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee I'm absolutely certain the contents of the Remote ID proposal came as no surprise.

Doom,
You just gave me something to do. Phaedrus might be a better choice due to his association with GA and the AMA, and his education is far superior to mine, but I'll give it a go.
 
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@Fred Garvin I agree that the NPRM is a recent release and early for any panic. It'll take time to bake, although historically they haven't changed a whole lot in substance... more structure.

My opinion is although the NPRM is recent. The discussions, drafting and final preparations are clearly not... and this wasn't written from 1 person or an FAA team's conceptualization. It was written from hours of discussions & meetings of political and company mgmt that structured for their gain and little regard to individual or sm businesses.

That's the focus of my concern... there apparently isn't anyone at the table to voice the majority of the sUAV community... the individual.

It'd be worthwhile to have such an organization.
 
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PatR

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DCJ,

I can assure you that your opinion of how, whom, and why this proposal was created is 100% accurate.

Having been employed for a considerable period of time by one of the members of the original ARC committee, whose CEO chaired the FAA’s DAC for a year, a company that has maintained several high level managers in a position almost embedded with the FAA in DC to coach them in UAV operations and equipment development, a company that pioneered use of commercial UAV’s in U.S. airspace under the eyes of the FAA, I’m aware that everything in the proposal has been in the planning stage since at least 2010. It’s finally reached the execution stage.

Understand this proposal is not the end of it. Following this will come NPRM’s covering hardware, pilot and maintenance certification. They know they cannot usurp our right to fly, but they know they can legislate qualifying conditions much too expensive for us to comply with, making airspace use and access cost prohibitive for 95% of the population.

Hopefully people now understand the true purpose of the FAA and DHS rule to register model aircraft. In and of itself registration did nothing but It was a necessary first step to enable the type of follow on legislation we are now encountering.
 
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DCJ,

I can assure you that your opinion of how, whom, and why this proposal was created is 100% accurate.

Having been employed for a considerable period of time by one of the members of the original ARC committee, whose CEO chaired the FAA’s DAC for a year, a company that has maintained several high level managers in a position almost embedded with the FAA in DC to coach them in UAV operations and equipment development, a company that pioneered use of commercial UAV’s in U.S. airspace under the eyes of the FAA, I’m aware that everything in the proposal has been in the planning stage since at least 2010. It’s finally reached the execution stage.

Understand this proposal is not the end of it. Following this will come NPRM’s covering hardware, pilot and maintenance certification. They know they cannot usurp our right to fly, but they know they can legislate qualifying conditions much too expensive for us to comply with, making airspace use and access cost prohibitive for 95% of the population.

Hopefully people now understand the true purpose of the FAA and DHS rule to register model aircraft. In and of itself registration did nothing but It was a necessary first step to enable the type of follow on legislation we are now encountering.
The undertow message of registration was clear to me and probably many, and clearly showed the lack of a strong representative voice and the lack of organization as a pilots / owners society. If you’ve been exposed (direct or educational) to any political motivated actions through history, the outcome on “day one” forecasted negative outcomes... incidentally, not just to ourselves; we’ve applied the same tactic within other countries too for profit.

Always had a bad flavor when I’d see the political organizations and companies producing these policies and regulations. Even with this pending NPRM action, many will subside to adopting as justified and disregarding / dismissing future actions as not probable or so far out of focus not a concern... although I agree with your predictions, it has a course.

At the sametime, it been so frustrating to read unending articles, posts or YouTube’s of drone Owners haphazardly disreguarding rules, common sense behavior or just blatant ignorance in performing activity just begging to draw attention of negative media & press. Our own sUAV community has probably contributed the majority of bad stimulation feeding public opinion that in turn allows poor regulations to be accepted... then these small number of bad apples move on to a new form of entertainment.
I doubt the sUAV community would be much of a blip on the radar of regulations & public concern if these hadn’t frequently occurred... despite the statistics of practically zero harmful incidents.

The current version of the NPRM, indicates older crafts as not within the guidelines... I do hope that not only the regs get softened, the older models have an economical path to become compliant or get exclusions. It’d be easy to comply if it was focused on the original remote ID intent... but near impossible economically if remains as indicated. That would have a major impact on Owner and short term market. Why purchase any platform of high value if ROI & zero salvage is 3-4 years. The multiple crafts I personally inventory has significant value and no short term plan to cycle out of usefulness.... it would be a expensive loss personally.

;) Your informative contributions continue to indicate your input at the table would be of value.
 
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Now I wish I had never registered as a drone owner.
We can hope the FAA listens to citizen group input. (Good luck with that.)
Or we all just go rogue.
If this proposal gets enacted I would not be surprised if most hobby pilots will simply ignore it.
On this issue, the FAA seems primed to shoot themselves in the foot.

My metaphor for this is if Homeland Security were to require all cars & trucks have remote ID; how would the public respond?
Implementation would start with FAA & US congress vehicles.
Or this one: Every smart phone has to run an app that continuously reports its owner & location to Homeland Security.
 
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But wait... They can subcontract the work to a for-profit corporation, which later gets revealed to be a Russian or Chinese front.
Sierra November Alpha Foxtrot Uniform
 
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Once it achieves that state the acronym is FUBAR, not SNAFU.

Our phones already continuously monitor our positions. Unless the battery is removed they are logging and transmitting data
The cell service can see which tower you're on.
The phone knows your Lat/Lon but does not send it unless some app tells it to.
That might be a map or directions or tracking app.
Those can sneak in when an app asks "OK to know your location? Yes or No."
 

PatR

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Ever hear the term “ping” a phone? A signal can be sent out to “ping” a number to obtain location data. The owner of the phone never knows happened. Active phones do all they can to stay linked to a nearby tower even when they are not in use.

The number of people that have been killed because their cell phones continuously broadcast ID and location data is in the thousands.
 
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One advantage of living in a poor signal area, no mast anywhere near, so an accurate location can't be determined, if I go up the road, the 2G signal gives my location to a village 15 miles away. When I switch my PC on they know where I am I suppose. Sometimes I don't get a signal for 3 days or more of If don't leave my area.
 
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Next Webinar Registration

Topic: NPRM - Info and Strategy Follow Up

Time: Jan 14, 2020 04:00 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

 
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  1. As a simple recreational drone flyer, I'm a bit confused:
  2. The AOPA website shows a Drone Membership option. It mentions American drone user advocacy as the top item on the list of Membership Benefits. However, the rest of the benefits seem to emphasize legal advice and representation in case of legal or medical problems. Would they represent my recreational flying interests with federal, state and local governments?
  3. The AUVSI represents ALL types of unmaned systems operation. With the recent interest in autonomous automobiles, that could suck up the bulk of their attention.
  4. I'm a member of AMA. I see how much of their efforts apply to recreational model airplane activities and only token efforts on behalf of us recreational drone pilots. If I can only fly my camera drone at designated flying sites, I'll loose interest quickly.
 
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DCJ,

Just to let you know, three people worked at starting such an organization back in 2014 but their primary focus was the commercial operator. The organization was the ACUAS and their intentions were great but the three staring members were still working for a living and could not totally devote themselves to building and promoting the organization. There was also a bit of an issue with funding everything that needed to be done with a non paying membership. Ultimately they did not complete what they set out to do and went separate ways. The website might even still be active, but I doubt it. ACUAS.org. I know this because I was one of the three, along with the owner of Aerial Alchemy and one other person. Now you know how I became acquainted with Aerial Alchemy.

Be that as it may, I fully agree there is a critical need for a truly representative body for the sUAS operators. I doubt that bay now anyone disagrees. Whatever organization it might be cannot be dedicated to only one sector, recreational or commercial, or primarily represent one sector while paying just lip service to the others. The laws that have been passed, and those that continue to be passed, impacts everyone that flies sUAS, drones, multirotors, RC airplanes, RC helicopters, RC gliders, or anything else that is flown using a remote transmitter. For the purpose of amplifying the previous sentence, sUAS should also include large RC model aircraft that exceed the FAA's 55lb. maximum weight as there are quite a few of them in existence. The descriptions get a bit confusing as all of them are classified by the media and the FAA as "drones".

Whomever and whatever the organization may be, they need to be able to "hit the ground running". There is no time left to be creating a mission statement and organizational structure. They need to already know their cost basis and the fee structure needed to finance their operations. They must have already established their office "footprint" having all the staff and equipment necessary to dive into mass marketing, phone and internet campaigning, and direct mail notifications. They need to be experienced in Washington DC lobbying, acutely knowledgeable with all things aviation, have a strong legal team.

The AMA is absolutely out of the question for a multitude of reasons, the least of which was and is their failure to recognize that what was to impact the commercial operator was certainly going to impact the recreational operator, as has and continues to do. To date, the AMA is more focused on preserving a few flying fields in order to preserve the revenue stream supporting the headquarters staff. Their non profit corporation class prohibits political lobbying, removing them as a potential political force to support sUAS and sUAS airspace access. With a membership of ~195,000 paying dues of ~$75.00/yr it seems ludicrous that, after what unfolded in the original ARC committee, they have failed to organize a sub organization devoted to lobbying for airspace rights and protection for ALL aero modelers. That they failed to support the lawsuit brought by a single individual against the FAA to overturn the registration rule was especially egregious, adding more evidence of their lack of support for the aero modeler.

I just don't see any of the small, new sUAS groups as having the means or the experience necessary to go head to head in DC with the FAA and the FAA's corporate masters. Even established players are going to have to work hard to make headway, and likely have to modify or contradict some of the positions they've previously espoused. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) is a group I considered but they are too small of a unified body to take us on in the manner that needs be done. They also collaborate a lot with the AOPA to accomplish some goals, but I just don't feel they are strong enough to get it done. We also need as many people as possible, preferably everyone that flies RC and drones, to join a single organization. Which means it has to be relatively affordable. AT $470.00/yr or $47.00/mo, Drone U falls well outside of the affordable category for a great many people. We are in a situation where united we might stand but divided we will certainly fall, and we can't have what I'll call "elitists" or the wealthy call the shots. In effect, that's what is happening now.

Because of their history and lobbying experience, combined with their knowledge of aviation and the National Airspace System, I view the AOPA as the one organization that could get things done in the timeline we have in front of us. To do that we have to kind of understand the AOPA, and recognize their focus for manned aviation will have to be "leveraged" to shift their focus more heavily on drone regulations. The latest AOPA membership numbers I've been able to obtain show them having~350,000 members in 2014. The membership has been steadily decreasing. In 2010 the membership was 414,224. In 2012 that number was 384,915. Membership has been in decline since the mid 1990's, and the declining membership, along with the decline of the pilot population in general, is largely why the AOPA has for the past few years been heavily focused on making it easier to pilots back into the left seat. Basic Med was an AOPA creation. The removal of privatized ATC services for manned aviation from the FAA Re-authorization Act was largely due to the AOPA. The creation of the Light Sport aircraft category was strongly driven by the AOPA. I mention those to establish a very small list of their vast accomplishments in promoting aviation. They get it done!

It's my opinion that much of what the AOPA has been doing has been, perhaps similar to the AMA, is working to assure their own survival. With a long declining membership the AOPA has been initiating programs and legislation that will increase the pilot population, and by extension, increase theirs. This is where numbers come into play as a means of "leveraging" the organization. We might view it like a hostile takeover. Some representative numbers, with links to the data, are noted below.

As of December 31, 2018 there were 633,317 active manned aviation pilots in the U.S.
U.S. Civil Airmen Statistics

As of 12/10/19
There were 160,748 certificated remote pilots. These are all Part 107 operators
There were 1,509,617 registered drones
Of those, 420,340 were commercially registered drones
Of the registered drones, 1,085,392 were recreational registrations. Consider that one registration covers as many recreational drones as you own so that million+ number represents individual operators, not aircraft.
UAS by the Numbers

Playing with the numbers a little, if we add the number of certificated 107 pilots to the number of recreational registrations, we might have a drone pilot population as high as 1,246,140. That number dwarfs the manned pilot population, and by any standard is a significant voting group.

If we look at full scale aircraft registered in the U.S. we arrive at some interesting counts. Our drones seriously outnumber them. From a 2019 AOPA report covering up to 2017, there were:
130,330 single engine aircraft
12,935 multi engine aircraft
9430 turboprop aircraft
14,075 turbojet aircraft
10,805 rotor craft
27,865 experimental aircraft
2,585 light sport aircraft

For a total of ~208,025 registered active manned aircraft.
http://download.aopa.org/hr/Report_on_General_Aviation_Trends.pdf

If we shift our thoughts back to the AOPA, an organization with a basic annual membership fee of $79.00 and a last listed membership count of ~350,000 (2014), a sudden massive influx of new members, all of whom are drone flyers, has a high probability of causing AOPA executive management shifting both focus and view, or at least adjusting their view to be considerably more supportive than they have been. With enough new drone members sending e-mails to the managing director it would quickly become evident that drone operators had just become a very large part of, if the the largest part of, the AOPA revenue generation stream. Losing the drone members due to lack of official support would incur a massive loss of sorely needed revenue. That's the hostile takeover part, and money is what you use for leverage. The part we need to understand is the AOPA already has everything we desperately need. They are well positioned in government and within the FAA. They are a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. They have the lobbyists. They KNOW airspace and airspace regulations. They know how to plan and network. That they also have other services we can take advantage is just extra candy.

Pat... You have just fleshed-out the concept and suggested a possible path to the solution many of us have hoped for. GREAT JOB !!! Go get 'um Tiger.
DCJ,

Just to let you know, three people worked at starting such an organization back in 2014 but their primary focus was the commercial operator. The organization was the ACUAS and their intentions were great but the three staring members were still working for a living and could not totally devote themselves to building and promoting the organization. There was also a bit of an issue with funding everything that needed to be done with a non paying membership. Ultimately they did not complete what they set out to do and went separate ways. The website might even still be active, but I doubt it. ACUAS.org. I know this because I was one of the three, along with the owner of Aerial Alchemy and one other person. Now you know how I became acquainted with Aerial Alchemy.

Be that as it may, I fully agree there is a critical need for a truly representative body for the sUAS operators. I doubt that bay now anyone disagrees. Whatever organization it might be cannot be dedicated to only one sector, recreational or commercial, or primarily represent one sector while paying just lip service to the others. The laws that have been passed, and those that continue to be passed, impacts everyone that flies sUAS, drones, multirotors, RC airplanes, RC helicopters, RC gliders, or anything else that is flown using a remote transmitter. For the purpose of amplifying the previous sentence, sUAS should also include large RC model aircraft that exceed the FAA's 55lb. maximum weight as there are quite a few of them in existence. The descriptions get a bit confusing as all of them are classified by the media and the FAA as "drones".

Whomever and whatever the organization may be, they need to be able to "hit the ground running". There is no time left to be creating a mission statement and organizational structure. They need to already know their cost basis and the fee structure needed to finance their operations. They must have already established their office "footprint" having all the staff and equipment necessary to dive into mass marketing, phone and internet campaigning, and direct mail notifications. They need to be experienced in Washington DC lobbying, acutely knowledgeable with all things aviation, have a strong legal team.

The AMA is absolutely out of the question for a multitude of reasons, the least of which was and is their failure to recognize that what was to impact the commercial operator was certainly going to impact the recreational operator, as has and continues to do. To date, the AMA is more focused on preserving a few flying fields in order to preserve the revenue stream supporting the headquarters staff. Their non profit corporation class prohibits political lobbying, removing them as a potential political force to support sUAS and sUAS airspace access. With a membership of ~195,000 paying dues of ~$75.00/yr it seems ludicrous that, after what unfolded in the original ARC committee, they have failed to organize a sub organization devoted to lobbying for airspace rights and protection for ALL aero modelers. That they failed to support the lawsuit brought by a single individual against the FAA to overturn the registration rule was especially egregious, adding more evidence of their lack of support for the aero modeler.

I just don't see any of the small, new sUAS groups as having the means or the experience necessary to go head to head in DC with the FAA and the FAA's corporate masters. Even established players are going to have to work hard to make headway, and likely have to modify or contradict some of the positions they've previously espoused. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) is a group I considered but they are too small of a unified body to take us on in the manner that needs be done. They also collaborate a lot with the AOPA to accomplish some goals, but I just don't feel they are strong enough to get it done. We also need as many people as possible, preferably everyone that flies RC and drones, to join a single organization. Which means it has to be relatively affordable. AT $470.00/yr or $47.00/mo, Drone U falls well outside of the affordable category for a great many people. We are in a situation where united we might stand but divided we will certainly fall, and we can't have what I'll call "elitists" or the wealthy call the shots. In effect, that's what is happening now.

Because of their history and lobbying experience, combined with their knowledge of aviation and the National Airspace System, I view the AOPA as the one organization that could get things done in the timeline we have in front of us. To do that we have to kind of understand the AOPA, and recognize their focus for manned aviation will have to be "leveraged" to shift their focus more heavily on drone regulations. The latest AOPA membership numbers I've been able to obtain show them having~350,000 members in 2014. The membership has been steadily decreasing. In 2010 the membership was 414,224. In 2012 that number was 384,915. Membership has been in decline since the mid 1990's, and the declining membership, along with the decline of the pilot population in general, is largely why the AOPA has for the past few years been heavily focused on making it easier to pilots back into the left seat. Basic Med was an AOPA creation. The removal of privatized ATC services for manned aviation from the FAA Re-authorization Act was largely due to the AOPA. The creation of the Light Sport aircraft category was strongly driven by the AOPA. I mention those to establish a very small list of their vast accomplishments in promoting aviation. They get it done!

It's my opinion that much of what the AOPA has been doing has been, perhaps similar to the AMA, is working to assure their own survival. With a long declining membership the AOPA has been initiating programs and legislation that will increase the pilot population, and by extension, increase theirs. This is where numbers come into play as a means of "leveraging" the organization. We might view it like a hostile takeover. Some representative numbers, with links to the data, are noted below.

As of December 31, 2018 there were 633,317 active manned aviation pilots in the U.S.
U.S. Civil Airmen Statistics

As of 12/10/19
There were 160,748 certificated remote pilots. These are all Part 107 operators
There were 1,509,617 registered drones
Of those, 420,340 were commercially registered drones
Of the registered drones, 1,085,392 were recreational registrations. Consider that one registration covers as many recreational drones as you own so that million+ number represents individual operators, not aircraft.
UAS by the Numbers

Playing with the numbers a little, if we add the number of certificated 107 pilots to the number of recreational registrations, we might have a drone pilot population as high as 1,246,140. That number dwarfs the manned pilot population, and by any standard is a significant voting group.

If we look at full scale aircraft registered in the U.S. we arrive at some interesting counts. Our drones seriously outnumber them. From a 2019 AOPA report covering up to 2017, there were:
130,330 single engine aircraft
12,935 multi engine aircraft
9430 turboprop aircraft
14,075 turbojet aircraft
10,805 rotor craft
27,865 experimental aircraft
2,585 light sport aircraft

For a total of ~208,025 registered active manned aircraft.
http://download.aopa.org/hr/Report_on_General_Aviation_Trends.pdf

If we shift our thoughts back to the AOPA, an organization with a basic annual membership fee of $79.00 and a last listed membership count of ~350,000 (2014), a sudden massive influx of new members, all of whom are drone flyers, has a high probability of causing AOPA executive management shifting both focus and view, or at least adjusting their view to be considerably more supportive than they have been. With enough new drone members sending e-mails to the managing director it would quickly become evident that drone operators had just become a very large part of, if the the largest part of, the AOPA revenue generation stream. Losing the drone members due to lack of official support would incur a massive loss of sorely needed revenue. That's the hostile takeover part, and money is what you use for leverage. The part we need to understand is the AOPA already has everything we desperately need. They are well positioned in government and within the FAA. They are a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. They have the lobbyists. They KNOW airspace and airspace regulations. They know how to plan and network. That they also have other services we can take advantage is just extra candy.
 

Ty Pilot

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  1. As a simple recreational drone flyer, I'm a bit confused:
  2. The AOPA website shows a Drone Membership option. It mentions American drone user advocacy as the top item on the list of Membership Benefits. However, the rest of the benefits seem to emphasize legal advice and representation in case of legal or medical problems. Would they represent my recreational flying interests with federal, state and local governments?
  3. The AUVSI represents ALL types of unmaned systems operation. With the recent interest in autonomous automobiles, that could suck up the bulk of their attention.
  4. I'm a member of AMA. I see how much of their efforts apply to recreational model airplane activities and only token efforts on behalf of us recreational drone pilots. If I can only fly my camera drone at designated flying sites, I'll loose interest quickly.

I believe the simple answer to that question is - Yes - if enough of us act, and by act I mean, join in mass to an organisation such as the AOPA. In Pat's post (#2) above he lays out the numbers very well showing how the current 'Drone' community which is made up primarily of hobbyists, has sufficient numbers that if we joined, the AOPA would see that a large portion; if not the bulk of their membership, are drone flyers, at which point our interests become their interests.

Like PatR and many other long time members of the AMA, I see the AMA as having been a great organisation in the beginning of model aviation, but have failed at realizing the massive shift that has occurred over the last 20 or so years, and are ill-equipped going forward to represent us.
 

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