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Intel threatens to move drone jobs overseas because of excessive U.S. regulation

Fri 20 Nov 2015

In a written statement to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade presented yesterday [PDF], Intel’s senior VP Joshua Walden gave a comprehensive review of Intel’s work on drone technology, including the company’s shared concerns with consumer privacy and health and safety – and warned that excessive U.S. regulation could drive drone development out of the U.S.

The statement also covered Intel’s current R&D investments in the United States, comprising billions of dollars and over 50,000 jobs. With respect to the regulation of drones, Walden writes that “Intel supports a regulatory framework that is risk-based and flexible … so that it does not hinder innovation and economic growth.”

Walden contends that the current FAA regulations, which do not allow quad copter demonstrations at less than 50 feet altitude, are overly prohibitive and, as a result, “given the lack of FAA permissions, we have been actively flying cutting edge drones overseas.” Adoption of a flexible regulatory framework will protect US interests, Walden argues, but also suggests that “a federal government approach that is overly prescriptive … will deter the private sector’s ability to invent and compete in the marketplace. Worse, it will drive us to relocate our business planning and R&D overseas, where we are being welcomed by foreign countries eager for investment in this new technology area.”

Drone technology, while controversial, is expected to be big business. A study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International predicted that drone technology could produce $82 billion in growth over the first ten years of integration, and predicts the creation of 100,000 new jobs.

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade has been conducting a ‘Disrupter Series’, in which they review implications of ‘a variety of disruptive technologies that are redefining our lives and improving our economic condition.’ Other ‘disrupters’ have included a review of the Internet of Things and the Sharing Economy.

The subcommittee’s review of drone technology comes on the eve of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is meeting today to develop privacy best practices for drones, and the FAA, which has a November 20 deadline for recommendations from their Drone Registry Task Force [PDF]. The trick, then, is to balance privacy, security, health and safety issues with a regulatory framework that allows for research and development at a cutting edge pace.


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