Over the past number of years as the Canadian UAV industry has evolved there has always been a challenge for operators, especially smaller regional ones, to make themselves know and promoted to potential clients. There are also challenges of fly by night cowboy drone operators working outside the regulations, competing unfairly with providers wanting to work within the systems. Customers are many times not aware of the requirements involved in offering drone services legally and thus do not always know what to look for in an approved vendor.
We have discussed the need of an industry association in the past and the need to better represent small UAV operators in Canada. Associations such as Unmanned Systems Canada already exist and have the ear of government, and while they are not perfect we have seen changes recently to help better address the needs of smaller operators within USC, and we will continue to work with them to address the needs of small operators via that channel. Other regional associations, such as Western Drone Operators Association, are also starting to form to address similar concerns and help develop awareness and the potential of the drone industry.
While associations offer many advantages, particularly the voice to government, they also can be time consuming and expensive to setup and run effectively. As well some operators may have different political views or other concerns that keep them from joining specific organizations.
To offer a less formal way to connect and promote professional UAV operators, we are proposing the concept of a Canadian UAV “alliance”.
Merriam-Webster defines an Alliance as:
- a union between people, groups, countries, etc. : a relationship in which people agree to work together
- the state of being joined in some activity or effort : the state of being allied
- a group of people, countries, etc., that are joined together in some activity or effort
The main goal of such a group is not to duplicate the efforts of associations, but to offer a less formal means for professional operators to join forces and work together in a cooperative manner to better promote UAV services and put a combined face forward to potential clients. As an informal peer group it would also not require the structure and bureaucracy of a registered association or union.
This alliance is also not meant to be a commercial venture in and of itself. There are existing companies filling that role now offering marketplaces to broker between providers and customers, such as Airstoc, Air-Vid, Flystro, AirMarket. For the most part however those services do not cover all sectors of the UAV industry, some are focused on aerial video for example and do not include research, journalism,mapping/GIS, agricultural services etc, or are worldwide and thus the Canadian portion gets lost in the noise. The proposed alliance would be by and for the industry itself.
A Canadian UAV alliance would target the following key areas:
- Directory of members offering UAV services, verified by peers to ensure an SFOC or related info is correct. Only those operating legally under an SFOC/Exemption with the associated insurance would be listed (or those in support industries such as training, insurance, where SFOC may not always apply).
- A basic FAQ on the industry and the associated regulations targeted at potential clients, to educate them on the ins and outs of commercial UAVs in Canada and assist them finding local legal service providers.
- A peer network to work together on larger projects or jobs falling outside individual regions and areas of expertise.
The KISS principle is the key, it needs to be easy to manage and maintain, and focused on promoting the members in a professional and concise manner.
The core of the alliance would be a website hub offering the information outlined above in a clean, clear, and minimal fashion along with associated social media presence.
To cover the cost of the website and related fees, a limited number of partners would sponsor the operation through a small yearly fee.
With this said, the formation of such a group is really up to the interest of those in the industry. Without a core group members there can be no effective alliance or network to promote.
We have set the process in motion to get this moving instead of merely talk, and the website is now near completion. For those interested in a look and to do some testing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org We hope to have this live by end of this week (Jan 9th)
Let us know your thoughts on such an undertaking and if you would be interested in being part of the alliance.