Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

For more than four years, CLS Strategies has worked to pave the way for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – commonly but inaccurately called “drones” – into the U.S. airspace by 2015. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) turned to CLS Strategies to help the industry address the criticisms of UAS technology that began to emerge after Congress in 2012 first authorized them to operate in domestic airspace.

Recognizing that these misperceptions posed a very real threat to the integration, CLS Strategies designed a public affairs campaign to promote the societal and economic benefits of the technology, which include important agricultural and disaster-response functions, with the goal of keeping the UAS integration on track. We commissioned and released an authoritative economic impact study on the integration, which continues to be widely cited in coverage of UAS. We cultivated support for UAS from governors, state legislators, members of Congress, academia and the private sector. We worked with end-users of the technology, including public safety agencies, to develop and roll out guidelines for the safe and responsible operations of UAS.

In 2013, we witnessed several important milestones on the path toward unlocking the potential of unmanned aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration, in November 2013, released a UAS Integration Roadmap. In December 2013, the FAA announced six federally designated UAS test sites. The year also marked the first commercial flight of a UAS, which took place in the U.S. Arctic. Amazon.com went public with its aspirational plans to one day launch a package delivery service employing UAS. A poll released in the summer showed growing public support for many uses of the technology.

While the regulatory framework is in development, today it is a question of “when,” not “if,” UAS will fly in the U.S. As a result, the unmanned systems industry is on track to unlock an $89 billion market and create more than 100,000 new U.S. jobs in the years to come.