Above the Skyline: The National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Act's Potential Boon and Bane
Updated: Jun 5
The drone and advanced air mobility industry, once seen as fodder for science fiction, has now become a global technological showdown. The United States, known for its pioneering spirit, is lagging behind its primary competitor: China. However, this competition has catalyzed the United States' efforts to reclaim its prominent position through the introduction of the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Act.
Amidst the growing demand for drones and advanced air mobility, the U.S. faces an overwhelming dominance by Chinese manufacturers such as DJI. DJI's hold over a significant market share raises more than competitive concerns. The company's alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army are stirring anxieties about potential security risks. Given the current climate of rampant cyber threats, the risk of foreign control over this critical technology sector is a major concern.
The stakes are high. Market projections from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) expect the Unmanned Aircraft Services (UAS) market to surge from $5 billion in 2018 to a remarkable $63 billion by 2025. Similarly, the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market, according to a NASA study, is anticipated to reach $115 billion by 2035, creating over 280,000 new jobs. The U.S. is thus under pressure to regain its foothold in this rapidly growing market.
In response, the U.S. has introduced the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Act – a legislation designed to foster American ingenuity, job growth, and economic prosperity in the U.S. drone and AAM markets, while ensuring national security.
Following the collaborative model of the Apollo missions, the Act proposes the formation of an interagency working group that includes NASA, the Department of Transportation, NOAA, NSF, NIST, DHS, among others. Their role would be to coordinate UAS activities and craft a strategic plan for drone and AAM development.
However, the Act's potential benefits come with certain drawbacks. Its limitations on the use of foreign UAS, while intended to stimulate domestic growth and enhance security, could curb innovation by reducing competition. Diverse competition in the drone industry, as per a report by the Brookings Institution, is a key driver for technological breakthroughs. Curtailing foreign involvement could possibly slow this momentum.
Moreover, the Act's push for domestic manufacturing and job creation might inadvertently escalate costs, potentially making drones and advanced air mobility services less accessible to consumers. It might also trigger trade disputes, as foreign nations may perceive the Act as promoting protectionist policies.
An increase in drone usage could also raise privacy and data security issues. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union highlights the need for legislation and regulatory frameworks to balance technological advancement with citizens' privacy rights.
Despite these potential challenges, the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Act remains a significant step towards the future of American technology. By laying out a comprehensive roadmap, the Act envisions a future where the U.S. reclaims the forefront of technological innovation.
The future outlined by the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Act is one of growth and prosperity. But it’s also one that necessitates careful planning and balanced policies to address the challenges that come with rapid technological advancement.