Thursday, April 18, 2024

Louisiana drone committee aims for new legislation next session

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Members of the Louisiana Advanced Aviation and Drone Advisory Committee met in Baton Rouge on Wednesday to review various issues in the evolving industry.

The committee, initially known as the Louisiana Drone Advisory Committee, was established by the Legislature in 2021 to develop a single, consensus-based set of resolutions for issues involving drone safety and efficiency and to provide recommendations to ensure increased growth of the technology.

Members on Wednesday discussed how some current rules for licensing, such as testing requirements to use drones for agriculture, may be dissuading some from entering the industry.

A limited number of training programs and testing facilities for required FAA licensure is also a hindrance to growing unmanned aircraft systems in Louisiana that George Rey, the committee’s vice chair, believes deserves attention.

“I think we need to take a look at how many places could you go get training,” he said. “I would think we would want to catalog who’s training.”

Rey suggested the committee centralize the necessary information on state laws, requirements and locations to earn a drone license to make the process easier for those interested.

“When somebody wants to get into the game there is no fact sheet and that’s what we could do,” he said. “Just like the FAA produces their fact sheets on laws and rules … and some people you could contact if you want to dive deeper.

“Those are things I believe are hindering us compared to other states where it’s very easy, all the things you need is quickly available through online fact sheets – where is it, how do I do it, where do I get the training, what’s the cost,” said Rey, who represents the Louisiana chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Chairman Bradley Brandt, with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, noted opportunities exist to secure federal funding to expand drone training and suggested the committee explore a plan to work with the FAA, the federal Department of Transportation and the state’s congressional delegation to take advantage of them.

Other topics included federal grants secured by four parishes – Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines – to deploy six systems to monitor for drones near critical infrastructure along the Mississippi River.

“Those systems have just come online recently and there will be a point when we’ll try to get together with the folks to see what their experience is with the technology, how well they’re doing it, are they really going to monitor it 24/7,” Rey said. “Really, just how each parish is taking the technology and how they’re implementing it.”

Still other discussions centered on coordinating with emergency response agencies and businesses to develop a plan to deploy drones during weather disasters and changes to FAA regulations.

The committee is expected to work over the coming months to develop suggested legislation and policies for lawmakers to consider during next year’s legislative session and plan to meet again in November to finalize the recommendations.

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