The UAS Backlog

By Luke Geiver | September 18, 2014

Donald Mark is one attorney every individual in the unmanned aerial systems industry should talk too. Mark grew up in the aviation industry, built a successful law career through his Minneapolis-based practice focused on aviation, and this summer, started a UAS law practice. Mark doesn’t work for a small firm, and he certainly doesn’t work alone. His team includes more than 20 attorneys and 20 more office staff members. His firm, Fafinski Mark & Johnson, has served Fortune 500 companies and businesses in Sweden.

For those looking for insight on new technologies, certification processes, liability issues or overall UAS implementation concerns, Mark is the person to talk with. Why do I say that with such confidence? Because he has already performed such talks with several clients ranging from large scale UAV manufacturers to small-time prospective UAV operators.

There is more importance to Mark’s story than his UAS abilities or know-how, however. His experience shows a backlog, or as he called it, “a pent-up demand,” for businesses and individuals waiting to take the final steps necessary before beginning to use UAVs in day-to-day operations. Although the UAS industry is already an established commercial space, Mark will be the first to tell you that the industry is on the cusp of exploding. Until the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration finalizes its rules and regulations for the UAS industry, Mark believes there will be more and more COA’s issued and more ways in which UAV operators find ways—both legal and illegal—to unleash the endless possibilities created by unmanned aerial systems.

And, on the topic of an industry set to explode, I have to mention the state of Nevada. My colleague Emily Aasand and I had the chance to talk with Thomas Wilczek, the aerospace and defense industry representative for Nevada. Wilczek was instrumental in helping the state become an official U.S. FAA UAS test site. We were lucky to talk with Wilczek. After becoming an official test site, his phone has been ringing constantly—it rang multiple times while we were on the line with him. Nevada’s test site ranges vary greatly, allowing large scale UAVs long flight times at some ranges, and small UAV startups the basics needed for testing at other test ranges. Wilczek was excited about the test ranges, but he was also enthused about the UAS activity already happening in the state that has been using and testing UAVs for a long time. Ashima Devices, a UAS manufacturer, has already announced it will build its unique UAV platforms in Reno. The company will create roughly 400 jobs that will offer an average salary of $70,000 by 2018. According to Wilczek, there are more stories of a similar nature most likely on the way. Maybe Nevada shouldn’t have been mentioned in this post, considering the industry may have already taken off.