The bipartisan bill seeks to allocate $100 million in competitive grants to assist local governments in leveraging American-made drones for critical infrastructure inspections, maintenance, and construction activities.
Highlighting the potential of drone technology in modernizing the nation's roads and bridges, Senator Blumenthal emphasized the importance of these grants in equipping state and local inspection officials with the necessary resources to ensure the safety of infrastructure and communities. "These grants are an important investment to ensure state and local inspection officials have the resources they need to keep our infrastructure and communities safe," stated Blumenthal.
In addition to facilitating infrastructure inspections, the proposed legislation also aims to support educational institutions in training the next generation of skilled drone technicians. Research universities, including the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, would gain access to grants intended to enhance their drone operator training programs.
Michael Robbins, Chief Advocacy Officer at the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), highlighted the growing significance of drones as indispensable tools for critical operations, particularly infrastructure inspections, as the technology continues to advance. Robbins stressed the importance of investing in the drone industry and the associated workforce, asserting that "the future of aviation leadership is in autonomy, and the United States must invest in supporting the drone industry and growing workforce."
Senator Boozman echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the need to embrace American-made drone technology to assess the safety of bridges, railways, and other infrastructure in a more efficient and effective manner. Citing various benefits already witnessed in Arkansas, ranging from precision agriculture to law enforcement missions and improved manual inspections, Boozman emphasized the importance of mitigating reliance on foreign-based drone manufacturers.
The proposed legislation reflects a bipartisan effort to promote the use of domestically manufactured drones in critical infrastructure projects. By providing grants to local governments and educational institutions, the bill aims to support the adoption of secure and reliable drones for infrastructure inspections while simultaneously fostering the growth of a skilled drone workforce.
As the bill moves forward, stakeholders and industry experts anticipate the potential impact of increased drone utilization on infrastructure safety, efficiency, and overall economic growth. With continued advancements in drone technology, the United States has an opportunity to lead the way in autonomous aviation and secure its position as a global leader in the drone industry.