Some people say “lobbyist” like a curse word. Like something awful. Like something evil.
That way of thinking? It’s a lie.
Lobbying is standing up for yourself. It’s advocacy.
It’s growing up and fighting the fight.
That thought in the air that lobbying is “bad?”
It’s time to get over that, Drone Law Nation.
Today’s episode is an experiment. I’m reading an article that I wrote in November, 2015. An article about why the drone industry must Lobby or Die.
The particulars of the drone world are different in 2016, but the spirit is the same.
Join or Die.
Lobby or Die.
Make something happen, or the world will happen to you.
Let’s choose to get real. Let’s choose to face the world as it is. Let’s fight the battle in front of us with smiles on our faces and confidence in our hearts.
Let’s go win the world.
Links for you:
Original “Lobby or Die” Article on LinkedIn Pulse
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Keep on flying,
Text of the Original Article (Published November, 2015):
Join or Die!
Those were Ben Franklin’s words to the colonies in 1754. If they didn’t unite in common defense, their cities would burn. Their children would die. Invaders would wreck everything they built.
The drone industry faces similar stakes, right now.
The invading army isn’t the French, though. It’s state regulation.
Don’t believe me? You will soon.
The drone world is hyper-focused on the FAA right now. That makes sense, as the FAA is drafting rules to govern commercial operation of small drones in the National Airspace System.
People seem to think that once these rules are out commercial drone companies will have smooth sailing nationwide.
This is not the case.
In state legislatures across the nation, laws are being proposed that could kill the drone industry.
How could this be? Isn’t the FAA in charge of drones?
Yes, it is. But only in part.
The FAA’s job is to determine how drones can fly safely.
The FAA will have next to nothing to say about what can be done with a drone during an otherwise safe flight.
States will have everything to say about that. And what they say could kill the drone industry.
Let’s take an example. Suppose that “Drone Company” has a business plan to deliver “Application X” to customers. Imagine that Application X will deliver huge value to customers in ways that have never been seen before.
This is not hard to imagine. These kinds of million-dollar applications are par for the course for modern drone companies. The innovation in this field is amazing. Drones are set to make our lives much better – from saving lost children to creating on-demand, 3-D surveys of construction projects. Let your mind go wild with the possibilities.
Let’s say that Drone Company’s biggest potential market for Application X is in “State Y.” Now imagine that in State Y, a lawmaker decides that drones are “public enemy number 1.” So that lawmaker proposes a law making Application X a crime!
Then what happens? If the law passes, Drone Company is completely out of business. This is so even if Drone Company follows the FAA rules perfectly.
What can Drone Company do? It’s just one company. What’s one voice against a chorus of people who don’t understand drones? How can one company overcome a crowd that’s terrified of new technology?
If Drone Company works alone, it’s dead. The huge value it could’ve delivered will be killed in the cradle.
Join or Die.
That was Ben Franklin’s message in 1754. If the colonies did not fight together, their world would fall apart.
For drone companies today, there is only one way to deal with the threat of ill-conceived state regulation.
Lobby or Die.
Drone companies must join together to lobby their state legislatures. If they don’t, the drone industry will die a death by 1000 cuts.
This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
I’ve written before about Florida’s (awful) drone laws. I won’t repeat myself. You can read about them here and here.
Florida’s experience is not unique. Awful drone laws are being passed around the country. Some, like the recent ones in California, were vetoed before they became law.
The California experience is instructive. The bills would have made most drone operations in California impossible. But the Governor vetoed the worst of them.
Why did he do that? Did he have a magic flash of insight? Does he read all the drone blogs?
OF COURSE NOT.
The California bills were vetoed because drone companies stood up and lobbied for their lives.
If they hadn’t done that, they’d be dead. Dead right now. California would be a dead zone for drone operations.
California’s share of the $82 billion drone industry? GONE. Maybe gone forever.
But that didn’t happen. The California drone industry came together. They lobbied their government successfully. They Saved the Day!
Lobby or Die.
It’s really that simple.
But what do I mean by “lobby?” Do I mean “paying off lawmakers”? Isn’t “lobbying” sort of evil?
Of course not!
Lobbying is a profession like any other. It’s a hugely important one, too. You pay lobbyists for their deep knowledge of the “process” in the state capitol, their key relationships built over many years, and their ability to see government action coming before anyone else.
With the right lobbyist in the right place, your industry can have a much bigger impact than you might think.
This is not a pitch for you to hire me, by the way. I’m not a lobbyist. There are lobbyists in my firm, but so what? I don’t care WHO gets hired to lobby drone issues in Florida.
I just care that SOMEBODY is. Preferably, several somebodies.
Because this is critically important. It’s important in Florida, it’s important in California, it’s important everywhere.
The Drone Industry must work together. Professional lobbyists must be hired.
Self-help lobbying is good too. It’s better than nothing. Coordinated calls to legislators are useful ways to help kill bad legislation.
But it’s hard to play offense without a quarterback. The drone industry won’t get “good” state laws passed without a coordinated, professional effort.
Don’t blame me for saying this.
It’s just the truth.
All is not “doom and gloom,” though. State drone laws are a threat to the industry, for sure.
But they aren’t just a threat.
They’re also a huge opportunity.
If your state is drone-friendly, billions of dollars in economic development can flow your way.
The world of “drone law” is the wild west right now. But you know what that means? It means it’s a frontier. A frontier we can shape any way we want.
So here’s your call to action.
Find your allies. Join industry groups where other drone companies hang out (AUVSI is the gold standard, but others are out there). Find ways to pool your resources and make the case to your state lawmakers.
You don’t have to go at it blind. I’ve got some suggestions on how to start a lobbying effort in my book that you can get for free right here (lobbying information starts on page 35).
Our states are laboratories of democracy. Each state gets to try different things. The best ideas usually catch on.
The impact you have on your state could ripple out across the country. You can change the world.
Act local, think global.
Join or Die.
It’s as true now as it was in 1754.
So get to it!
Go make a dent in the world.
Keep on flying,