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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: May 28, 2021 11:19 AM
From: Senator Ryan P. Aument
To: All Senate members
Subject: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Innovation Fund
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology has proven to be a valuable asset in almost all industries. Firefighters use UAS equipped with thermal cameras to fight fires more safely. Bridge inspectors and utility companies use UAS to inspect bridges and powerlines more safely and at lower cost. Professions ranging from surveyors to accident investigators use UAS to rapidly collect aerial photography and build 3-dimensional models. Farmers use UAS to determine the health of their fields and deploy fertilizers with precision. Educators use UAS to introduce students to STEM curriculums.

The UAS industry is growing and its economic impact is estimated to be $82 billion by 2025. Nearby states made early investments in promoting UAS technology and businesses and governments in those states have benefited from this investment through early adoption. UAS are being used to deliver products and medical samples in North Carolina and Virginia and are being used to inspect aircraft in Memphis while corridors for experimental research and development exist in upstate New York.

According to a recent study Pennsylvania ranks 37th in the nation in UAS industry preparedness. Pennsylvania must develop a workforce which can operate and integrate UAS into public and private sectors.

Shortly, I will be introducing legislation creating the UAS Innovation Fund. This legislation will create an annual grant program that will incentivize both public and private entities to develop, embrace, and integrate this technology. This investment will result in the further growth of the UAS industry while creating new jobs and opportunities within the commonwealth.

Grants may fund up to three quarters of the cost of acquiring UAS for Pennsylvania businesses and first responders. Pennsylvania’s educational institutions will be eligible to use these grants to develop training programs so that our state’s businesses are not reliant on out-of-state pilots. Grants may also be used to fund a portion of the operating expenses related to experimental projects conducted inside Pennsylvania.

This fund is intended to bring the benefits of UAS technology to all of Pennsylvania. A portion of the funds may only be used in rural or small city settings and grant amounts are capped to ensure funds are available to many applicants statewide. Grants also may be used as matching funds for federal programs so that small entities such as rural police, public works, or fire departments as well as high schools and vocational education providers can acquire UAS and operator training.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation which will develop a UAS workforce and enable broad adoption of UAS technology by Pennsylvania’s businesses and governments.

Introduced as SB787