With the rapid growth of UAV operations in Canada, combined with ongoing issues and confusion with understanding the regulations, proper processes and procedures, insurance requirements, and so on, is it perhaps time to consider a commercial UAV operator association for Canada?
As this industry grows it will be critical to have a voice that represents commercial operators from small real estate agents through TV/Film aerial service providers to GIS and related industrial sensing operations. Without a voice the needs and issues of operators may quickly be ignored and overlooked as the big players focus on their place in the larger UAV market. As well with no consolidated force, the industry will become very disjointed with various groups putting effort towards similar issues but each working in a vacuum unaware of what others may be doing in the same area already.
Currently Unmanned Systems Canada is the main UAV industry voice in Canada. They have been involved with Transport Canada in drafting the new regulations that have recently been released. Their membership spans a range of organizations, although not directed on the small AP/AV operators from what we have seen to date, with much of the focus on R&D, academic, government, and military areas.
MAAC is focused on non commercial recreational use, and although there is some overlap with people involved commercially and recreationally, they are not in a position to represent commercial use of UAVs.
There are also existing international groups doing much of this now, however as Canadians we are often seen as only a small player on the global stage and thus our interests may not always be a major concern in these larger groups. Plus the issues we face with government and other factors vary significantly even from our southern US neighbor.
An operator-centric organization could potentially provide the following to it’s members:
- Represent the interests of operators to regulators and government.
- Leverage the member base for better insurance coverage and legal assistance.
- Create a resource for SOPs and related operations specific documents.
- Sharing the knowledge of membership for peer advice and assistance.
- Pool of trusted operators to collaborate and recommend for projects across the country.
- Codes of conduct for members to ensure “professionalism” within the industry and weed out “suspect” operators.
- Point of contact to media and public to speak on issues and concerns that the industry faces.
- Promote and develop the industry and public awareness through education and exchange of ideas.
Governments and other outside agencies will always be reactive in nature and behind the curve on technology, so being able to self manage and be an adviser to these regulators and agencies would benefit all members that individually have little power or voice alone. The more the industry can manage itself the less pressure outside bodies will be forced to put on it.
For the long term success of the industry, especially for the smaller independent operators, there needs to be an environment of “co-opetition” to help build a long term healthy and professional industry. We are in the infant stages of the life cycle right now, and things could go in any direction. If everyone goes it alone we may not even get over the first speed-bumps in the road.
- What are your thoughts on such an industry association?
- How would you like to see it developed?
- What issues are you most concerned with?
- What benefits would you want to see from an association?
Lets start a dialog and share some ideas on the pros and cons of going in this direction and what are the important factors for you.