Assemblyman Steve Fox
Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, achieved a significant legislative victory with the passage in the state Assembly of AB737, which would take steps to designate California as a test site for unmanned aviation systems, or drones.
By a wide margin, members of the state Assembly voted this week to approve the bill that would require California to apply to the FAA for designation as a site for drone testing. Fox was the sponsor of the bill. The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
According to the wording of the bill, the FAA has already announced the designation of six national drone test sites. Since California is home to much of the aerospace industry and defense industry, a federal test site would ensure the continued growth of the industry and its importance to the state economy.
Fox has repeatedly said the drone testing designation would bring new jobs into the state.
“Unmanned aviation systems are the next big technological development for California’s aerospace industry,” Fox said in a news release. “This small investment in our future could result in thousands of new jobs and positive, sustainable economic growth.”
It is estimated that in the next decade the drone industry will create over 100,000 jobs and over $82 billion in total economic impact in the U.S. California is projecting $14.3 billion in economic impact and the creation of over 18,000 jobs.
According to Sandra Kramer, a press aide to Fox, drones are a valuable tool for doing those jobs that are dangerous for humans. “The machines stand in for people in situations like fire fighting or…examining earthquake fault lines in places that are dangerous to walk in.”
Important applications for civilian drone use include:
* wildfire mapping
* weather monitoring
* agriculture monitoring
* disaster management
* post-earthquake monitoring and management
* television news and sports coverage
Kramer said while many citizens are worried about privacy issues surrounding the deployment of drones within the United States, those concerns are unfounded when it comes to drone testing.
“The testing is performed in areas that are unpopulated,” she said. “They won’t hit anybody, they won’t be looking at anybody. We just want to figure out how to build something that’s safe before we take it out over a populated area.”
Kramer added that lawmakers are currently looking at several measures aimed at protecting people’s privacy once commercial use of drones become more prevalent.