January 15, 2015
The Honorable Robert Bentley
Governor of Alabama
600 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Re: Task Force Report on Unmanned Aerial Systems
Hon. Robert Bentley, Governor:
Subsequent to your executive order establishing the unmanned aerial systems task force, which included the Alabama Department of Transportation, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the task force has been extremely busy and actively engaged in determining Alabama's best path moving forward as it relates to the policy and regulation of unmanned aerial systems.
To achieve the best results, the task force divided itself into subcommittees that represent the major entities that would be involved in the implementation, use, or regulation of an unmanned aerial system platform within the state. The subcommittees met independently from the task force and were comprised of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors that best represented the expertise and utilization within that subcommittee's scope. The subcommittees produced a report to the task force, which you will find attached as appendices to this letter.
The subcommittees and their chairs included:
- Legislative Affairs – Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
- Agriculture & Forestry – Comm. John McMillan of Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries
- Conservation & Natural Resources – Comm. Gunter Guy, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
- Transportation, Construction & Public Utilities – Director John Cooper, Alabama Department of Transportation
- First Responders & Public Safety – Secretary Spencer Collier, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- Education & Research – Dr. Bill Hutto, Director of Auburn University Aviation Center
- Aviation – Jimmy Reynolds, Montgomery Municipal Airport Authority
As the task force researched and obtained information regarding the current and future situations surrounding unmanned aerial system policy and regulation, we realized that without input and insight from a federal government perspective, we would be mostly unsuccessful. A major concern in the development of UAS technology was to preserve and respect the privacy concerns of every citizen. As a result, the task force invited Mr. John McGraw, a former FAA executive and expert in this field, to come to Alabama and educate not only your task force members, but also subcommittee members and the general public about the past, current, and future opportunities with unmanned aerial systems. He provided much-needed insight and background knowledge into the FAA mindset, historical actions or inactions, and expected time frames for positive movement regarding new policies and regulations.
We should note that from our many hours of study, testimony and observation, that this emerging technology holds great economic promise for our Great State in nearly every sector. Moreover, unmanned aerial technology can be applied to many departments of state government for aerial inspections, law enforcement surveillance, as well as many other potential applications. All of these, while requiring some investment, can make government more efficient and cost-effective.
After receiving the reports from our assigned subcommittees, hearing public concerns and comments, and careful deliberation within the task force, we respectfully recommend the following actions be taken to allow Alabama to lean forward and be prepared when the federal government officially releases its UAS policies and regulations for implementation:
1) The task force recommends that an Executive Order be issued that places unmanned aerial systems authority under the Bureau of Aeronautics of the Alabama Department of Transportation.
2) The task force recommends that an Executive Order be issued to create a UAS Council to be comprised of members of the current UAS task force with the addition of representation from the Alabama Legislature, with their function to serve as an advisory group through the continued work of current subcommittees while providing direction to the aeronautics bureau of the Department of Transportation.
It would be the desire of this task force that once the executive order assigning the aeronautics bureau of the Department of Transportation as the single source point of contact and residue of expertise, that all legislative affairs and activities and advisements be routed through that office.
The task force and its existing subcommittees would be able to quickly and definitively provide science-based and sound recommendations that would help the aeronautics bureau office respond to any questions, legislative concerns, or legislative recommendations that they may have.
In our research, we have studied what other states have initiated in their pursuit of developing UAS public policy. We attach two prime examples in the appendix to this report.
Members of the task force wish to thank and commend you, Sir, for the opportunity to provide our input and energy into this important issue. These recommendations are not an end but a beginning of the long process of building a foundation for a thoughtful and well-planned framework for public policy that encourages development and deployment of this new technology. We feel that unmanned aerial systems will change the way many of us do business, interact with public and private entities, and will remain a constant source of public interest and debate for years to come. Your leadership and proactive stance on this emerging technology will pave the way for safe and thoughtful unmanned aerial system implementation and growth within the State of Alabama.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if there are any questions or concerns regarding this document or the attached appendices.