For the last three years, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus has fought for the interests of drone manufacturers in the House of Representatives. “The Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus’ goal is to educate members of Congress on every facet of this industry,” reads their Chairmen’s message. “We are this industry’s voice on Capitol Hill, and will work closely with industry to ensure we continue to expand this sector through efficient government regulation and oversight.” And now, the House has a sister drone caucus in the Senate.
Everyone is well aware that the drone industry is expanding rapidly. According to a recently unclassified Government Accountability Office report, the number of countries that possess drones rose from 41 in 2005 to 76 by the end of 2011. The report was released shortly after the Defense Department identified 66 countries that are eligible to purchase drones from the United States. As for that business about the industry needing a voice, it’s certainly something it lacks, as the makers and users of the devices refuse to divulge information about them to the public.
How well does that voice reverberate? Pick a member of the caucus and follow the echo to his campaign coffers. During the 2010 election cycle, for example, the drone industry bestowed over $1.7 million on the caucus, securing them ample pull in the south wing of the Capitol. These numbers are pretty good, even by the lofty financial standards of American democracy, so it’s no surprise that the Senate is attempting to get in on the ground floor of this investment. It now has a designated drone faction as well: the Senate Unmanned Aerial Systems Caucus. In a gushing press release, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, praised the bipartisan group and explained, “Unmanned systems extend human potential, allowing us to execute dangerous or difficult tasks safely and efficiently. Whether bolstering search and rescue efforts; studying and aiding in natural and man-made disasters; or supporting security missions and protecting the environment, unmanned systems are capable of saving time, saving money and, more importantly, saving lives.”