#039 – Thirteen Years in Drones and Beyond with Gretchen West

two things before we kick off the episode the first is a huge shout out and big thank you to the 36 people who are members of the private commercial drones FM slack group this is the group that with one dollar a month to support the podcast you get access to and we share and dispense advice and talk about the latest rumors news and then tips and tricks and we've literally got people from around the world that are inside this group they're supporting the podcast but we're also all leveling up our commercial drone knowledge together so if you want to go ahead and get entrance to that you can go ahead and you know also support the podcast by going to patreon com r e 0 n com / drones podcast number two the interview you're about to hear was recorded in late January with Gretchen West and she is a wealth of knowledge and we talk about a lot of regulatory factors affecting the drone industry now not much has changed since we recorded this but some things have so keep that in mind as you're listening to really understand the pace and the velocity at which this market that we're all in is evolving and so it's just an interesting case study in the speed at which things happen in this day and age so i'll leave you with that now enjoy the rest of the episode welcome to commercial drones FM the podcast that explores the commercial drone industry the people who power it and the concepts that drive it I'm your host Ian Smith hey everybody and welcome to commercial drones FM i'm sitting in san francisco today at the drone deploy HQ with Gretchen West who is senior advisor for innovation and technology at Hogan Lovells law firm Gretchen is previously VP of business development and regulatory affairs at drone deploy and longtime executive vp at AUVSI since 2004 welcome to the show Gretchen thank you for joining us thanks for having me it's great to be here my pleasure this is a long time coming so before we even get started I have to tell everybody listening so we did work together a drone deploy and if it weren't for Gretchen I may not have come over to drone deployed in San Francisco we actually were speaking whenever I sent my email to join deploy telling them to hire me and all the reasons why they should I wasn't even a request it was basically like here you need that you need to tire me but anyways thank you for that again I think we always kind of talk about that when we see each other but yeah great to see so tell us a little bit first of all for those that may not know you your background and how did you really get into drones I mean how did you start at a EVs I in 2004 well I actually didn't come at it like most people would from an engineering background or anything with the military my backgrounds really in nonprofit management so I worked in a whole bunch of different industries and kind of reconnected after several years with the executive director at AUVSI and he was hiring and I went in and interviewed and had no idea what an unmanned system was but it sounded pretty cool and so started working for him and you know ten years later I was still there is the executive vice president I managed all of our government affairs all of our business film and all of our global strategy and just really kind of fell in love with the industry and you know AUVSI represented unmanned systems and air ground and maritime and it was primarily defense military focused and then they shifted a little bit into the civil and commercial side but I just I really fell in love with the industry and then eventually moved out to California to kind of pursue my passion really on the commercial side and that's when I came to germ deploy and you know I was interested in looking at startups and I'd known joined deploy since they had founded the company and it was just one of those you know the founders were just you know this this great group of kids really I mean there you all still are very young but heard me being in this industry for 12 almost 13 years and but you know they just I just really felt that they were on to something and you know not a lot of the companies were doing the same kind of software work and mapping work in the space yes there are some other companies doing it now there's more and more getting into that and you all have have obviously expanded and grown and you're doing a lot more which is really which is great but I just always just had a good comfort level for what you all were doing and just the kind of the passion of the founders and then the staff and you know working there was a great experience and having you come on board was great as well and then you know I ended up kind of kind of surprisingly working for a law firm and it actually kind of goes back a little bit more to my nonprofit roots because my whole passion is really is really helping this industry succeed and my focus is really more on the on the commercial side but I just you know there's so many barriers to operation and I just want to make sure that companies succeed and end-user succeed and find value in drones and so at Hogan levels I'm able to do that with working with clients so I do a lot of policy work still but I focus a lot on business strategy and helping clients kind of find their way in the marketplace which is kind of what nonprofits do as well and then we also founded the commercial drone Alliance which is a nonprofit that focuses on end-user so I get to run that so again kind of back to my nonprofit management roots so I've kind of done a lot in this industry and and been around longer than most and seen a lot of changes but and we're still kind of at the very beginning phases of what's to come it's really exciting yeah so sometimes people ask me how long have you been in drones and I tell them what has it been almost well now it's almost four years and they tell me oh wow that's a that's a while but then yeah 2004 nice very nice i think the old no no you're like you have your brain is extraordinarily valuable you you've seen so much so speaking of that like what were the early days like at AVS I I mean like what were the big problems and the challenges at that time I mean we face a whole different set today but going back you know pre 2010 which is like the earliest that people really start thinking of commercial drones were there commercial drones at that time was there like an impetus to to create an industry around it I mean not really all you really had worthy kind of the hobbyist community that food recreationally and then you had the military and then there were you know there were some civil applications some law enforcement some you know NASA NOAA kinds of things but most of them are really government focused and so back you know 2004 everything was really kind of big systems that were flown in theater you know the global hawks and the Predators that those were kind of the big members which are still members of a vsi and but that's where the technology was focused there wasn't as much on software it was really kind of on the hardware and I was number i think it was employee number seven at a vsi back then and i remember their trade show was you know maybe a thousand people and a couple hundred exhibitors well not even probably less than 100 exhibitors and now the show is you know eight thousand people and it's just it's grown and obviously the the scope of the industry is growing but it really just kind of started out the military in like a lot of technologies a lot of this stuff has developed in the military and transfers over the commercial market and I I think some of that happened but I also think that this just because of Technology and the rapid development of technology in general for whatever industry I think opportunity just kind of presented itself and I think even back then people knew that the commercial market was going to be huge nobody really knew what that looked like nobody I don't think people really thought about these kind of DJ I size consumer drones and now you can buy so many different varieties of them they're affordable you can get a Best Buy or you know biome on amazon com there's so many different types and I don't think anybody it people actually thought how huge this industry is going to be but we always knew would be bigger than then what was happening in the military so we're just now starting to see that development do you think that some of the more legacy military drone folks are kind of like looking at all these little drones flying around like punky kids like coming around and our turf and or do you think it maybe has some benefit for them as well as as this industry kind of envelops commercial and military what do you think on that irfu to venture to say well you know I I still really respect and love both sides but they are very different the military comes at this from a you know just when you when I talk to people that have been with the military first of all they don't like the word drone for them that's that's really a negative turn based on the history of drones in the military they're more concerned with really kind of high-tech mil-spec kind of systems and so people that are coming out the military that are developing a technology have a much higher standard in their mind of how a lot of this should be developed and that's not to say that kind of these young commercial startups don't have a high level like a high standard that they're reaching for but I think in this industry we don't necessarily need mil-spec stand mil-spec for developing some this technology and from develop developing some of the hardware for some of the applications totally so I think they're certainly as a difference and if you're if you've never worked with the military been in the military had any kind of aviation experience of the military I think drone is completely acceptable word and you don't think of it as negative so there's still as a difference there but I think I think the gap is starting to close i think you know there are a lot of great technologies that are being developed by folks that have military background and there's great technologies that are being built by entrepreneurs and engineers that that are you know just looking at it from technology standpoint very well said yeah i completely agree with that there are definitely things to learn from from that you know the many many years that they've been dealing with aviation as well if you listen to if you're just listening to this now and you listen to a previous podcast i did with mark bath or Keats the director of the office of aviation services at the Department of the Interior of the United States and he is an old-school military pilot Top Gun test pilot total total you know military I'm just going to say bad ass with his piloting skills and he is really looking at this from you know taking both perspectives so I think he would agree with you on that total like there's there's things to be learned on both sides and having a culture for a commercial drone company that really adopt some of those is is definitely beneficial well I think the other thing is that the marketplace is just changing so again you know the last you know 10 years ago you had recreational users that were mostly kind of fell in the camp of the Academy of model aeronautics so you had people that were going out to flying fields and they were flying for fun and then you had the the military civil side of the drone users mostly I would say government and I'm generalizing a little bit and but those were kind of the primary markets that we were seeing and then all of a sudden we started seeing a shift kind of a blending of the two into this consumer prosumer space and it's actually become a bit of a challenge I think because you have military people that understood aviation and air space rules and then you had the model the modelers in the hobbyist who also understood aviation not because they had worked in aviation but there's just there's a culture of knowing aviation as a recreational hobbyist now you have this whole new community of consumers prosumers that are real estate agents or construction workers they just happen to have a drone as a tool they don't think of it as aviation and so there's this whole new this new culture that you know people that know aviation have to adapt to people that don't know aviation and and vice versa it's it's it's it's actually causes some confusion for the industry because you've got to educate those non-aviation people that technically these are considered aircraft right now Wow highly recommend checking out that mark bathra kepis ode of the podcast because we go over that exact thing and I couldn't agree more so moving on then so further down in your career or a little bit further in your career so drone deploy touch on them real quick um you know what attracted what really attracted you to what they were doing I mean so this was back in 2014 I think whenever you joined so the company had like this thing called the copilot which was a 4G LTE onboard modem that sent images from drones as they were being captured to a processing pipeline and maps being sent directly to an iPad from a farmer and a field and they're appearing I mean is that what attracted you to the company or or you know what were they doing something different than everyone else at that time well I think it's time there weren't a lot of companies that were doing the mapping that we're doing kind of the real time and I think it wasn't you know it wasn't just the mapping but it was this it was the software and the capability of the software and the flight planning and how that could even tie into kind of regulatory practices and helping keep the drone fly safer because of some of the some of what was built into the software you know my passion you know again is to help this industry but i think the trends that we've been seeing is you know hard hardware's hard and I think that drone deploy learned that with with a piece of hardware called copilot hardware is hard and so I you know I think focusing on the software side that's where the that's where the brains of this industry I think is going because quite honestly at the end of the day the future of this industry is is in automation so an end user they don't really need to care how they get data they just want to get data and it and it's likely going to be automated and it's going to be done without human interaction and so it doesn't really matter if it's a drone flying in the air for something else they need information that they can process and make decisions very quickly and I think positioning how r into place position themselves with the software community and environment and also what you've done with the app marketplace you're you're really going down that trend that path towards one automation but to just being very specifically software focus which is I think the trend for this industry I think not to say that hardware's bad because you have to have hardware but I think companies that are focusing on software or smart right now and so after drone deployed then you know you moved on to Hogan Lovells this is your current position so what do you do at Hogan Lovells Hogan levels is a law firm but what is your position what do you what do you what's your day to day like I mean what are your objectives yes so it's a law firm and I'm not a lawyer so it's an interesting position but there are a lot of us non lawyers that are there and then in kind of the way that to describe this is where can a business strategy consultants to the firm so you know you hire a firm to help with your legal expertise your policy work your lobbying work and that we're kind of a one-stop shop now because we also have this business consulting support that we can offer as well so for me it ranges anything from helping startups find their way in the market understanding the where their competitors are helping them with their business strategy writing their business plan helping startups find funding we deal with a lot of investors so we know what the investors are looking for so we can kind of be a go between and do the right matchmaking so if Esther's looking for hardware we're not going to bring them a software company and vice versa so it's really just again kind of helping these companies understand the market place because there are so many companies getting into this space every single day it's helping large companies that are starting gern programs that wouldn't have traditionally been in a drone industry previously yeah and and for me it's not just transmen that's my main focus area but I'm also because I'm i work on innovation in technology also do some work with automated driving and we're starting to get into IOT a little bit into virtual reality things like that so just more on the technology side and it's the same kind of thing it's it's being more providing business strategy to companies and then of course I still do a lot of the regulatory and policy work not from a legal standpoint but everything working with Capitol Hill and the FAA very very closely that's right yeah now that you said it I remember one time I think we were driving to tahoe and we had a conversation about autonomous cars that i forgot you're really passionate about that do you think just a touch on that you know it seems to come up on the podcast fairly often where we'll be like oh yeah but it's the same with autonomous vehicles and things I mean they're all autonomous vehicles but have you been seeing a lot of overlap like especially in your position at Hogan Lovells dealing with you know policy and things what do you what do you see I mean do you really see just like so much in common with the two I think there are similarities i think from a policy perspective some of the challenges you know they're not exactly the same because once in the air and it and it's governed differently and the others are on the road and you know but there are similarities in that so states right now govern how the roads are run essentially and so from an automated driving perspective when you're looking at policy you really come have to focus on the state level but also the federal level and the federal level i think has been a little bit and more i think forward thinking when it comes to looking at at autonomous driving and i think part of that is because the industry engaged with the government very quickly i think from a drone perspective our industry probably didn't engage as quickly an fa kind of has always had to play catch-up because our industry just kind of exploded with interest and and you know this consumer commercial market really started to pick up and i think you know faze playing catch-up but I think in the future again kind of going back to automation i kind of consider this internet of things you know at some point in time everything's going to be connected so from your car to your drone to your your nest in your home your home robotics that are you know in your home all of this is going to be very connected and so I think we all should be forward forward-looking and how do we connect cars and drones and everything else and not just focus on how do we have drones that collect information friend users think about farming you know you've got your drones and you've got your tractors all of that can be automated but how is that connected as a package that can be useful to a farmer and I think you know some of that is starting to come together a little bit more and it'll be interesting to see where that goes nice yeah so the one of the things that that you're involved in that you mentioned was you know nonprofits and what you're you know passionate about and helping businesses helping people use this new technology effectively so you are the co-executive director of the commercial drone Alliance so what is the commercial drone Alliance and why is it important today sure so having spent so much time working in nonprofits especially for a EVs I and then I've been involved with several of the others that are out there in this industry I you know just having been in this industry long time I kind of feel like the commercial enterprise end-users are the least well represented in this whole space you know a EVs I represents air-ground maritime civil commercial and military so there's you know they've got a lot of kind of constituents that they represent so there's spread very thin and that does include end users but it also includes manufacturers and some of the other groups are really manufacturer focused or software service provider focused our focus is really on those end users and we think we can collaborate very easily with all those other trade associations because we're very laser focused on one industry and so when you look at it we started hearing from Capitol Hill we started hearing from regulators that they didn't really want to hear from the people building the technology anymore they wanted to hear from the people that wanted to use it and there really wasn't a group that was representing them and granted each of these vertical markets have their own trade associations but their general they're not focused on drone technology specific Lee and so we identified a few markets that were that we're looking to support but when we started talking to these end users I think generally we know that there's interest from commercial enterprise to fly drones I mean we hear that all the time we know there are people that are getting approvals and they're flying and it's happening but the more that we talked to some of these larger enterprise companies I mean think oil and gas mining construction commercial real estate insurance you know you're talking about big companies that have been around a long time they're very nervous and some of that is a regulatory environment they want to make sure that whoever's operating drones whether it's them or they're outsourcing that has has the proper legal authority to do so you know I think that they're going to be requiring probably a higher level of insurance that a lot of generators get ya part 1 07 allows for a written test to be able to fly a drone I think that some of these big companies are going to acquire more more you know maybe even trained pilots with pilot's license I think we're kind of going down that path and so you know from a regulatory perspective end users are nervous but also from a public perception perspective they're nervous there that you know a lot of these companies are very risk-averse so the more we started talking to these end users the more challenging it is we realized for them to want to adopt drones so yeah they're buying one here are there and they're doing some flying and they've got some approvals but you know the future for this to really work for them they have to be operating at scale they have to have fleets of drones and they're just a little nervous to do that so the whole goal of our commercial drone alliance is to reduce those barriers for them and help them understand yeah the benefits of the drones for their specific use case because quite honestly if these end users aren't adopting the technology then this industry really goes away from a commercial perspective those are the customers for all of the people that are building hardware and software and so how do we figure out how to build the software that they actually need so they're getting actionable information how do we make sure that we have the right size drone that operates at the right you know it has the right endurance for them you know how do we prove to them the safety case for these drones and how do we help them how do we help get them things like beyond visual line of sight and the ability to fly over people and you know because right now if you're an oil and gas company what's what value is it to you to invest in something like this and go through the process and then not have the ability to fly beyond visual line of sight yeah so that's our whole goal is really to just educate those in users and get them interested in purchasing this technology quick interruption to remind you that I have a patreon account for the podcast patreon is a great service that allows you to support the podcast if you want to with patreon you can choose to donate as little as one dollar a month which comes out to 12 bucks a year that goes towards my hosting website travel and promo costs for the show you can also cancel this at any time without any penalty it's a small way that you can make a huge difference to ensure the longevity of the show one more reason to do this however is because you also get rewards out of it the first reward is a private slack or Facebook group that I'll create and you'll get an invitation to it but it's for supporters only so we'll use this group as a place where we can talk about the drone industry solve problems ask questions and generally level up our commercial drone use and knowledge together so thanks again for listening and please go check out patreon.com / drones podcast to see the rewards you can earn for becoming a commercial drones FM supporter that's p80 re0 n-com / drones podcast trust me those awards are really cool so thanks again for listening let's get back to it so do you think if the FAA were to become or further regulate commercial operations for specific scenarios do you think that would be a huge boon to these larger enterprise companies to start adopting drone technology faster I guess because they're all pretty much like have a drone strategy quote-unquote like and whether it involves one drone or five or maybe even like a hypothetical drone you know it's it's there but do you think that the regulatory flexibility is the biggest thing that's hindering this right now yeah I mean I think so part 1 07 allows for a lot I mean it allows it's finally broadly authorized as commercial operations but when you look at it there's still a lot of abuse cases that aren't going to be effective under part 1 07 because you can't fly over people without a special waiver you can't fly beyond visual line of sight you can't fly at night now granted they're proving a lot of the night operations which is great but some of those other categories they're not delivery technically is not possible and you can't even get a waiver to do delivery beyond visual line of sight through under part 1 07 so it still has a lot of restrictions for a lot of the really cool use cases that we keep hearing about now as an industry talking about regulation I mean very few industries want to be over regulated and we don't either however we do need regulation we need to know what the rules will be for beyond line-of-sight and operating over people and it's going to take industry working with the fa to create those rules not just relying on fa to come up with whatever they come up with and you know we're in that process now with the micro rule which is operations over people that still has not come out publicly for comment yet but you know so the FAA is working on this this kind of thing but you know we need regulations and and you know we're hearing the trump administration is going to be much looser with regulations and they're probably now that he's in office is it's it's very standard that his administration it's a brand new administration probably won't look at any new regulations until he's settled and in place and has his team all all kind of in place and ready to go and so things like you know the rule for operating over people or the rule that supposed to be started this summer for expanded operations beyond measure line of sight you know how long will this transition take for the new administration to get in there you know they may not welcome any new regulations which a lot of industries are probably happy about that but for us you know we need those rules to be changed so that we can actually operate in ways that are beneficial for a lot of those end users so what challenge is then does the faa face i mean we we face we as in commercial drone operators you know associated we faced our fair share of challenges but you know i do think the faa is getting a lot of credit that they rightly deserve for moving so quickly in the face of this crazy you know expanding industry but what do you think are some of the the you know interesting challenges that they're having to with I mean there's a lot but well I mean this is all this is a new industry for them and they've always regulated it like mandate like man Davey ation so they've gone back and they've looked at man deviation rules and tried to figure out how do they how do you imply it how do you impose that on two drones and you know 1215 years ago when you're looking at these larger high-altitude aircraft okay that might make a little bit more sense but we're talking about drones that are you know a half a pound to 25 to 55 pounds that are a little bit heavier I mean the rules the man aviation rules shouldn't apply to that so they have to really think outside the box and rethink how they how they how they do their jobs and it's a bureaucracy so it's not easy to just do something like that so they're kind of tied within the bounds of what they can and can't do from a legal perspective so they are doing this rulemaking to do kind of these one-off you know they had part 1 of 7 which is great again you know you don't need a pilot's license which personally I think for some search with some situations I think you should and you know for a five-pound drone i'm ok with somebody flying near me that that it only has a you know has taken a written test if it's a 55-pound round I'm a little bit more nervous about that so I think they need to be more risk base as far as their regulations go but I mean they have a tremendous amount of challenges because this industry is growing so fast and the technology is changing every single day the rulemaking process is so incredibly slow you know it's hard for them to keep up and so industry's been really trying to work with them that the administrator has been really welcoming to talk to companies about technology so they can understand better but they need data they need you know they need they need help influencing how the decision-making process goes but again it's still very very slow is Huerta's administ is post or you know tenure a tied to the obama administration or is he on a separate schedule like we're not going to lose who artha or Zeke his wife that's still around there and we're too great for that because he said that but he only has one year left on this term so but he is he has said that he would stick around so he'll be around for another year which is great because he's been very supportive of our industry and I think it's good to have some of that continuity especially under new it under a new secretary it's great to have a champion within the FAA that's that's really been fairly prodrome in helping our industry so the FAA though is different than Trump's administration so what like who obviously the FAA has the most influence but like how much influence this Trump have I guess is what I'm trying to say like on our drone operations commercially I mean if he's if his administration says boom let's go ahead and do this this is great for the economy it's going to create jobs etc they can fast-track some things well I mean it's all about the balance of power between the executive branch Congress and these different agencies and so basically the Congress is so there's a there's a pending FAA reauthorization bill which will be addressed again in September and that's kind of what gives the fa their guidance from Congress it gives them their money it tells them what to do that has been kind of on hold there's just been some extensions that have happened from the last reauthorization but it's expected to be redressed again this year and there's some good things in there for our industry that would kind of help open up the commercial market a little bit and so you know from a congressional perspective they can certainly put influence on on the FAA the FAA it kind of remains to be seen how the trump administration is going to wield their power I think you know we're hearing that he's going again going to be loose around regulations which could be what which could be a good thing for us if he's if he's more open to discussion on regulations but if he's like no no no we don't need any more regulations and tell secretary child to and you know not to do any new regulations that then that actually hurts us because again we need we need regulations for these other operations however a lot of this will remain to be seen but I think you know I think industry for the most part is happy with the appointment of the secretary elaine chao because she used to work at the faa before so she kind of knows the inner workings of the organization she is it's probably a little bit later on regulations than some but understands how it works so there's also some positive news there but you know during the transition there have been you know i know that the trumps transition team president Trump's transition team did meet with the FAA and i think i heard it was a very positive meeting so you know i think that there's you know all of this is kind of its in collaboration yeah there's a lot of different things that a lot of different moving parts to move it forward and so that's where that's where it gets confusing well Trump is an aviation buff he's got his own nice big old airplane but of course as an industry as if we needed any extra reasons to we will have our popcorn ready and we are sitting and watching this entire show unfold so hopefully it all goes in our favor now one thing that the FAA recently did that I want to touch on pretty quickly is they this is one of the headlines that I read that you were heavily quoted in is the FAA quietly revoked section 333 closed set exemptions what does that mean so basically back in November they posted a blanket amendment to the federal register which we just happen to track because that's what we do but most operators wouldn't track that or even sometimes know where to look so they posted this blanket amendment and there's the good news part of it was they basically went back and said anyone that has a section 333 exemption can now operate any of the drones on our kind of approved list so if you got approval to fly very you know one specific vehicle a DJI phantom 2 plus whatever now you can actually fly any of them within within your certain restrictions of your own section 333 you now can kind of pick and choose from their approval asst the same time they basically revoked closed set operations which is roughly you know between five and five and six hundred operators that had those approvals and just as a reminder the closed set operations were that was kind of the the additional approval to be able to fly over people so originally it was the filmmakers that they got those first approvals and they were flying they were able to fly within a closed set which is why it's called close up they were able to fly over people that were involved in the operation or provided consent so they were able to film movies with actors and fly over the actors so basically part 1 o-7 actually does not allow for that so part 10 someone's actually step backwards from that closed set closed set exemption and now the FAA kind of quietly again just revoked that permission now the process failure we think is they should have notified those five to six hundred operators because they probably don't know and if they're flying now under those under those parameters they're likely flying illegally and so if they were to get caught I mean they could probably fight it that they didn't know but from a public perception issue or public perception image it makes our industry look reckless you know I can see the press going out some of the anti-people anti-drone errs saying oh well look there they're reckless they're flying illegally when they were told that they weren't allowed to because it's public knowledge because they released it on there wherever you said that I don't even know about it most people don't right right and so it's out there so that's so there and and what they did probably they were allowed to do but it would have been nice to notify people and the other thing is you know they're to our knowledge and probably to the FAA's there have been no incidents no injuries no fatalities flying a drone under those clothes set parameters and so you know revoking this without a safety reason why just doesn't make sense and so there's also the concern you know what if the FAA if the FAA was able to do it for this instance could they do it for others and you know it's just something the industry needs to be cautious of and so you know we reached out to the FA and talk to them and we did clarify that we were reading that amendment correctly and so we are you know our whole goal right now really through the Alliance is just to make sure people are aware and so they're not going to they're not going to reverse the amendment or put out another blanket amendment you know reverse in a decision but don't ever even hear about it great I must make makes I talk to you so and so you know we want to get the word out to those to those operators that do have those approvals and if you still are operating under a closed set exemption or you want to continue to then you need to go to the FAA and ask for permission ask basically for a renewal def a may or may not grant that but I but there I think they're willing to have those one-on-one conversations so you got to go through more process so if the question came up a lot actually which now unfortunately is no longer valid but what benefit do I have still operating under section 333 since part 1 07 has come out and that could have been oh you can do closed set operations you can fly for people with their consent actors/actresses whatever but now no longer so okay we'll keep a close eye on that and I think you told me about a twitter handle at HL drones for alerts on regulatory changes so if you want to follow @ HL drones on twitter you can check out some of the really fun regulatory changes that might potentially come out that's our Hogan Lovells strands so it's a lot of it is about the regulatory changes and we do a lot of blog posts on things that we're finding their you know legal changes and updates that we think the community needs to know about thank you for doing that so what are some of the future challenges then for commercial drone operators we've overcome so much in such a short time period what do you think comes next well i think you know we're still waiting on this operations over people roll to see what that looks like and i think you know the the FA kept saying would be released by the end of 2 2016 which it did not and now with a new administration in place and you know that again the it's very common for new administration's to not look at new regulations so how long does that delay the release of the NPRM but even even if the the notice of proposed rulemaking came out today you know it still has to be open for comment and then it still has to go through a lengthy period of time where they have to go back and reevaluate so chances are good that it wouldn't even be enacted until the end of 2017 so there still is no you know there still isn't a way to operate over people however the rule is specified the FA had planned to start looking at rulemaking for expanded operations so beyond visual eye sight this summer but again that's could take a while to get that you know to get to the point where like a law is enacted to be able to operate that way so there's still you know part 1 of 7 allows for so much commercially but there's still a lot of areas where you can't delivery beyond budget line of sight is impossible beyond visual line of sight is not possible that a waiver flying over people flying at night all of those things have to be done with a waiver and the waiver process is not the same as getting your section 33 exemption some are easier than others based on the use case but it's a lot of paperwork sometimes it's actual physical testing of the drones it's not you know right now there's a portal that you can go online you can fill out a form to have your waiver process and what I think a lot of people don't know I think a lot of people think that okay I've submitted my waiver and I'm just gonna they're going to come back to me with approval and I think that most people don't know that that's just step one the FAA is going to come back to you and say you know they're going to give you a list of things that you need to do and some of that might be physical testing of your drone I mean this is like a human that's like running through your whole application saying okay well yeah there's a two year and we are saying we need this this and this and it's very unique to your specific situation some of it could be unique some of it might not it depends on the east case but there that this is this is a more rigorous process than the section 333 so the approvals that are coming at you know there's probably hundreds of pages of documentation for some of these approvals some are very easy you know flying at night in in rural areas I mean that's that's much easier for them to approve but it's just it's been a challenge and we've you know called on the FAA and the administrators streamline the process and make it easier because again I think a lot of people think oh I've submitted this online application I'm good to go i'm going to get my approval whereas you know the FA may come back in three four or five months and say well wait we need all this additional information and so it just it needs to be it needs to be streamlined and so that's you know that's another challenge that we have and then you know outside of the FAA I think what we're hearing from commercial end-users these these kind of bigger Enterprise industries you know they still they might want they might want to hire people that are pilots they might want a higher level of insurance so you know is there going to be a higher standard that the FAA sets that is going to enable commercial operators to actually adopt the technology and so from a user for our sorry from an operator perspective for from a drone company that's making the tech making technology developing technology making the hardware you know are you or as a service provider that's going out to provide this service are you you know you're excited because part 1 of 7 says you don't have to have a pilot's license but now what if all you're all of your customers require that then you still go back to square one where you have to have a pilot's license just because that's the that's the level that they're looking for and it's not all end users I mean some are you know they're less risk-averse with some of the big Enterprise industries that we're talking to you know they're going to require some more of that probably higher levels of insurance and training so I think that'll be a train that'll be challenged that we will have to overcome as an industry and so some of those standards i think industry needs to take it upon you know we need to do this ourselves and figure out what are those standards how do we like the whole goal is how do we prove that this technology is beneficial useful safe you know how do we prove that to these end users and and also deal with the regulatory environment privacy issues public perception i mean all of that's a challenge in a hopefully non dystopian future of I don't know 36 months from now imagine we have you know full regular regulation of beyond visual line of sight there can be drone deliveries I mean where do you see this industry in that case if we have you know most of these of our you know current problems that are very in our you know very close to our our faces right now what do you what do you see the industry developing into it in that time frame oh I wish I could answer that one that it just look in the future so hard for this industry we've come so far but there's still challenges and when are we going to have just actual beyond visual line of sight or flying over people or you know when is that going to be a routine do you think beyond visual and of sites you think that's gonna unlock like a lot of a lot more use than flying over people I think both actually have have very very popular in unique use cases and you know for some you know for some let's just take you know security for example so you have a huge warehouse that that you need to provide perimeter security and it's you know you'd rather use a drone that flies around the perimeter and recharges you know some of that might be beyond visual line of sight so that's your that's your primary goal you want to be able to fly beyond visual eyesight but then ya think okay i think about facebook facebook skype campus is huge so you've got a long way to fly or you have a whole fleet or swarm of drones that are flying but you know people are coming in and out of that campus all the time and so it could be it could be somebody's guest who hasn't given consent so you know how do so then you've got the issue of operating over people at night and then if it's at night then you have that third one so like there's so many times where you can come up you can say okay well let's clear beyond the line of sight and will be good for this use case oh but then wait a second then you've got people possibly in the operation so so you know it just it makes it you know and i hate to make it sound more confusing than it should be but it can be and in predicting how this is going to happen near the administrator stood up at CES and i think people were expecting him to talk about the the operations over people rule and say here it's coming at this date very very soon and he didn't give a timeline but he said basically after all the conversations with industry in with other government agencies on the rule they had they had more questions than answers so they basically have to go back and kind of think through the more and he mentioned security concerns and so you know if there's there's might be some bigger issues that could hurt our industry and make us move a little bit slower that we just have to be aware of and I think you know three years from now I think the technology is going to continue to prove itself as being safe and I think you know we need the operators to make sure that they're safe and and they're educated and they know what they're doing to kind of protect the industry but in three years time amid it remains to be seen I mean one of the things that the Alliance has done is to come up with some policy goals that that we think that the new president's administration should look at and one of those is you know should these tiny drones be regulated in the same way this is some of the larger ones can we kind of carve them out of the equation and figure out how do we how do we use community-based standards to operate and kind of regulator govern our own industry instead of having it done by the FAA let the fa figure focus on the bigger issues that really you know are important like commercial aircraft that we fly on every single day next-gen things that you know that they've been working on for years and so you know all of those things are still in play and there's no and there's no telling where we're going to go but I think there's enough commitment from the government on this technology I think you know globally there's this technology's here it's not going anywhere and and the FA just needs to figure out how to catch up and make it work but it's just it's going to take all of us to help them do that is it too late to start a drone company if you've ever been thinking of doing it I don't think it's too late but it depends on what you're trying to do I talk to a lot of started yeah that are you know that are trying to do mapping and in you know and there's there's room for similar types of companies to provide similar services and I think that's fine you know the service provider model has become a very very popular one and I think there's a room for service providers and but I think what's going to happen in this year you know it's been every company that's come into this into this industry has been marginally successful you know but it wasn't until you know late last year that we started hearing about companies that weren't doing very well you know 3d robotics ended up you know they stopped production of the solo and GoPros karma had some failure you know so parrot you know parrot just laid off a lot of people on their drone team so they were starting to hear of companies that are not doing as well and and lily I mean the list is actually starting to grow and I think we're going to start seeing we're going to see consolidation of this industry starting this year so we already know some of the big companies that are getting into this space like Intel and you know Google obviously has been in this space for a while Qualcomm IBM it feels very very interesting right and so you know acquisitions are going to start happening and so I think we're gonna see like normal business cycle with startups and so it's not I still think companies can come in and be successful but you have to be very very careful about what you're what you're coming in to do because there's you don't I think some of the problems that that some entrepreneurs see is being still unsolvable I think have already been solved and I think you know again it's just and this is one of the things that we do is kind of this business strategy support through Hogan Lovells is helping some of these startups understand here's your fit or not based on what they're looking for in the industry but you're saying there's a chance I think there's a chance okay it depends I mean are you gonna want to come into this industry and build a small five-pound drone that's a you know quadrotor I don't know with the market share that's already taken up by the others that are out there will you be very successful I mean hardware's hard yeah I think you need to find a really unique play and personally I think it's in more almost the data analytic side it's it's it's closing that gap between collecting data and giving actionable data to the end user instead of figuring out what does a farmer need what does a construction worker need and getting that data to them in a very actionable way and this again is something i see is trending i think it's very very important we can't these end users they don't care what's flying in the air they don't care what's operating in the background they just want the information and i think that's where dren deploy was making a very good play mmhmm yeah so yeah just to round that out so hard where ya hardware we hear it all the time hardware is hard it's tough you gotta compete with DJ I in most cases there's still some unfilled niche of fixed-wing drones but then again fixed-wing lend itself more to longer range higher endurance then you get into regulatory issues like beyond visual on a site flying over people etc so that that one's tough then you've got service provider which you know it can be tough to find some clients we are hearing now that the enterprise companies that will be of farming out these jobs to the service providers are feeling a little bit apprehensive and then of course we've got software which can grow like massively so it just really depends I think I like the advice you know not Gretchen was not very very definitive in the answer which is good I totally knew that was coming but there's totally totally opportunities out there in different ways so if anybody knows it's Gretchen and I'm gonna go ahead and say thank you so much Gretchen for for joining us today that was incredibly insightful I'm gonna have to listen to that again there was a lot of knowledge dropped if you want to learn more about the commercial drone alliance you can follow worker drones on twitter that's at worker drones that's the commercial drone alliances Twitter account and visit their website at commercial drone alliance org you can follow Gretchen herself at GA wary that's kind of hard to spell GA wher ry on Twitter and then hogle Hogan Lovells I mentioned the alerts and regulatory changes Twitter handle at HL drones so go ahead give them a fall while you're at it you can follow the podcast at drones podcast on facebook facebook.com slash drones podcast check out the patreon account at patreon.com / drones podcast I got to make this outro shorter after this this is getting a little bit ridiculous but we really appreciate you listening everyone thanks for your time and Gretchen any last parting thoughts to leave us with today well I kind of feel like sometimes I do these things and I feel like I'm putting more challenges out there to the industry that it makes it almost makes it seem too difficult to be in this industry and it's it's I don't want to leave on a negative note because I think there's tremendous opportunity in this industry yes there are challenges yes there are people working on it yes we can come together as an industry but there are great things like you know NASA nFA's UTM program that that industry is getting involved with there's a lot of really good initiatives out there and I encourage companies to get involved and just stay you know stay educated about what's happening and that's what we're here to do to make sure you know about things like the revoking of the closed set operations because we want people to the top rate safely and you know again huge potential in this industry we just we just have some challenges but we're gonna get through it and I think this is this industry is is going to be booming very exciting to be part of it totally thank you for for all your help on that by the way so everybody fly safe we're going to go ahead and cut off the mics cheers you you

Ian reunites with past drone industry colleague, Gretchen West, who is Senior Advisor for Innovation & Technology at Hogan Lovells and Co-Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. Gretchen has been in the drone industry for 13 years. She brings her refreshingly pragmatic views to the podcast to give a lesson on how power is balanced between President Trump’s administration and the FAA. Gretchen also reveals that Section 333 “closed set” exemptions were quietly revoked by the FAA and reviews the challenges of their waiver process, which is available to commercial drone operators. Gretchen and Ian close with some realistic advice to those who are interested in starting a company in the drone industry and suggestions on where the greatest opportunities exist.

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