After years of overlooking Florida’s growing drone economy, Senator Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio are finally taking notice. Unfortunately, instead of providing a shot in the arm for Florida small business and public safety agencies, their plan titled the “American Security Drone Act” would destroy Florida’s drone economy and deprive dozens of government agencies across our state the tools they need to safely and effectively perform their jobs.
The bill, which seeks to strengthen U.S. national security interests and protect intellectual property rights by banning government use of certain foreign-made drones, is uninformed and misguided.
As a military veteran and small business owner, I support strong security measures—but a plan based on country of origin does nothing to bolster security. The reality is that nearly all electronics companies rely on parts from the global supply chain. Instead of banning these critical components outright, our representatives need to work with U.S. businesses, public safety agencies, and drone and security experts to develop industry standards that increase safety, provide real security, and, most important, offer a practical solution that won’t cripple small U.S. businesses.
There is too much at stake to get this wrong, which is why I recently sent a letter to Senator Scott and Senator Rubio detailing my concerns. My company, FLYMOTION, is based in Tampa and has evolved into a thriving technology company that employs more than a dozen people in Florida alone, all of whom work tirelessly to keep our state’s public safety infrastructure strong and contribute to the local economy daily. Our success is a testament to our hard work and the importance of an open U.S. business environment that supports entrepreneurs and innovation.
Our customers, including many of Florida’s public safety agencies, depend on our services to execute vital missions and better serve our community. For example, FLYMOTION has helped many Florida fire departments collect valuable infrared data so firefighters can more safely navigate burning buildings. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, FLYMOTION helped large utility companies more efficiently restore power to affected areas, which ultimately saved lives and allowed businesses to return to normal operations more quickly.
More broadly, there are more than 1 million civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems registered in the U.S., and commercial drone use is expected to triple by 2023, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) most recent Aerospace Forecast.
This growth helps fuel the U.S. commercial drone economy, which is expected to surpass $82 billion and create more than 100,000 jobs by 2025, according to an economic report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
This rise in drone popularity and use cases is great news for FLYMOTION and other Florida-based communities. However, Senator Scott’s and Senator Rubio’s plan will halt the growing commercial U.S. drone industry and Florida will miss out on the promise of drone technology. I choose to run my business on reliable products that lead the market in safety, security, quality, and ease-of-use. I only ask, on behalf of my business and my employees, that I am allowed to continue to do so.
Ryan English is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of FLYMOTION. He is responsible for the strategic growth and visionary leadership of FLYMOTION. In addition to his military service and public safety background, Ryan has over a decade of entrepreneurship experience.