U.S. senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced the formation of the Senate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Caucus on September 27. They said the mission of the bipartisan caucus will be to educate senators and their staff on the capabilities of unmanned aircraft and the concerns over their use, and to work toward best shaping UAS policy. Inhofe and Manchin both serve on the Sentate Armed Services Committee.
“I have heard from constituents and agree with their concerns” over the growing use of UAS, Inhofe stated. “One of the purposes of this caucus is to ensure we address these risks and protect Americans’ constitutional rights, while also proving a way forward with UAS operations that improves our national security and emergency and disaster response.”
The House Unmanned Systems Caucus was formed in 2009. It is chaired by Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). McKeon is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The formation of the Senate caucus was applauded by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the main industry trade group. “I would like to commend Senators Inhofe and Manchin for their leadership and commitment in establishing the caucus, which will enable AUVSI to work with the Senate and stakeholders on the important issues that face the unmanned systems community as the expanded use of the technology transitions to the civil and commercial markets,” said Michael Toscano, AUVSI president and CEO.
Lead by Oklahoma State University and the U.S. Army’s Fort Sill, Inhofe’s state aims to become a national leader in UAS research, development and commercialization. The goal is to establish Oklahoma as the “fly to” state for UAS R&D, training and education, Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma state secretary of science and technology, told the Unmanned Systems North America conference in August. “Eventually we want to become the commercial center for the growth of the UAS industry.”