Drone vs. Drone Association Battle— it’s all about serving members’ needs

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Who Will Better Serve Member Needs?

FAA press releaseFAA Press Release

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) will co-host the 2nd Annual FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Symposium on March 27-29, 2017 in Reston, VA.

The Symposium will give stakeholders the opportunity to talk face-to-face with a cross-section of government and industry representatives about regulations, research, and other initiatives to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). Based on the survey results from last year’s Symposium, this year’s content focuses on initiatives to overcome technical challenges to safe UAS operations, as well as industry partnerships advancing integration.

Speaker and workshop sessions will cover topics such as options for operating in the NAS, the future of airspace authorization, and how to address challenges for traffic management, infrastructure and security.

Building on the success of the 2016 UAS Symposium, this year’s event has been expanded to span three days and will include a Resource Booth to provide one-on-one technical support on authorizations, waivers, Part 107 requirements, and other policies and regulations. Stop by anytime to have your questions answered by staff from the FAA’s Flight Standards Services, Air Traffic Control, and other policy and IT experts.


The FAA and AUVSI are jointly sponsoring Symposium on Drones. It is a bit odd for the FAA and only one of many associations representing users to present such an event. The Drone Industry has many associations, such as:

  • and a long list of other groups

Oddly enough, AUVSI has changed its byline to “ALL THINGS UNMANNED” suggesting that its scope is not focused on aerial applications; it expects to be the voice of unmanned motor vehicles, robots and all future uses of this technology. Further, its publications include a significant amount of content about military application of UAS vehicles. The Association’s lobbying of the FAA over the issuance of Part 107 relied heavily on political clout and did not evidence much technical substance.


Contemporaneously with the announcement of the Symposium, AOPA announced “a new line of membership options created for drone pilots, a key part of an ongoing effort to unite manned and unmanned pilots for the common purpose of safe integration of all users.” In contrast with other drone users’ association, AOPA has a history of 80 year leadership in aviation safety and advocacy. The Frederick, MD organization has a well-established track record on UASs. AOPA President Mark Baker explained that “[d]rone pilots are seeking their place in the larger world of aviation and looking for opportunities to expand their experience. This is an ideal time to embrace these pilots and welcome them into the GA family, and AOPA is uniquely positioned, with the strength of nearly 350,000 members, as the long-recognized voice of GA, and represents all pilots.”

Clearly AOPA wants to define for its prospective UAS members a position as a technically competent drone organization which knows aviation safety; i.e. to be effective advocates, it is important to have established relationships with those in the bowels of 800 Independence Ave. as well as the 10th floorAs the drone user population expands in numbers and increases in the sophistication of its aircraft, a user group, which understands NextGen, ATC and the challenges of integration, will be most attractive.

One of the key measures of association effectiveness is the offering of services which its members NEED. Mr. Baker’s team listed value-added benefits for members:

  • Education
  • Advocacy
  • Pilot Protection Services—Enhanced membership options include legal counsel and representation from expert attorneys, if needed.
  • Insurance
  • News and Media
  • Safety

The list provides a panoply of support for the UAS consumer, many of who are new to aviation safety. Clearly, this is an important addition to those who seek technical support and Washington representation for their UAS flying.

As with any innovative, disruptive technology, the introduction of UASs has drawn a number of new enterprises and services. The entities which best meets the needs of drone pilots will succeed; which approach captures the long-term loyalty of UAS flyers will be demonstrated by the payment of association dues over the next few years.


2017 FAA UAS Symposium [FAA]

FAA UAS Symposium [AUVSI]

AOPA welcomes drone pilots, Membership options created
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