Drone Makers Create New Lobbying Group After Split From Google, Amazon
Major drone manufacturers have created their own industry advocacy group focused on unmanned aircraft for the growing consumer market.
The Drone Manufacturers Alliance “will serve as the voice for drone manufacturers and our customers across civilian, governmental, recreational, commercial, nonprofit and public safety applications,” Kara Calvert, director of the new coalition, said in a statement Monday. Its members are DJI, 3D Robotics, Parrot, and GoPro (GPRO).
The four companies pulled out of the Small UAV Coalition, the drone industry’s most visible lobbying group, late last week. With backers like Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN), Intel (INTC), and Verizon (VZ) still among its members, the Small UAV Coalition will continue to pull a good deal of weight within the industry. But where policy is concerned, drone manufacturers like the newly-anointed charter members of the Drone Manufacturers Alliance apparently felt like they needed a separate voice.
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“There is a lot happening in Washington around drones right now, and I think the companies felt the need to focus their efforts on policy issues that affect manufacturers of drones used in the recreational, commercial and other spaces,” Calvert told Fortune in an email. “In many cases, our policy position may fall in line with that of the UAV Coalition.”
On big-picture policy issues, the two groups will likely continue to find their interests aligned. But as the drone industry has grown in both size and scope, a split between commercial and consumer companies was somewhat inevitable. Amazon Prime Air and Alphabet’s Google X, for instance, are pushing for regulatory policies that will let companies deploy drones to deliver packages and beam Internet to remote areas. Small drone manufacturers like DJI and 3DR are more focused on selling drones to consumers and opening up new drone uses to its customers.
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Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration and other civil aviation authorities are increasingly drawing a line between commercial and consumer drones. Those regulatory distinctions continue to push the specific interests of consumer drone manufacturers and commercial drone operators apart.
“We consider the Small UAV Coalition to be allies and friends,” DJI spokesman Adam Lisberg told USA Today last week. “But the business is growing so big that we thought we would most benefit from a group focused on the issues that are important to small drone manufacturers and our customers.”