World Economic Forum Launches Drone Innovators Network to Spur Drone Policy

The network aims to bring together the best and brightest people in the drone industry to propose healthier, more effective drone policies.

Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bureaucracy can be slow and move like molasses, particularly when it revolves around a new technology for which a cohesive, all-encompassing set of safety measures and standards has yet to be established. Fortunately for recreational drone enthusiasts and commercial drone entities alike, the World Economic Forum has started the Drone Innovators Network to hasten and contribute to healthy drone policies in need of legislation.

According to DroneDJ, this network is comprised of government aviation agencies, academics, and established drone entities such as DJI and Parrot. The overarching purpose here is to bring together the best and brightest in the ever-expanding industry in order to share and combine research, find the most effective methods regarding certain use-cases, and to collaborate on creating practical, effective, and sensical drone policy for UAV traffic.

While the Trump administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program is similarly making strides in loosening restrictions for certain commercial drone entities and various territories, in order to collect as much functional data for future drone traffic, the World Economic Forum is adamant that progress simply isn’t happening fast enough. In their mind, it’s particularly frustrating to witness the argued sluggish pace of legislating rational rules since such a vast amount of tangible progress has already been made.

“It’s all about access to airspace,” said Timothy Reuter, head of drones at the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a sub-division spearheading the newly established network. “Drones are playing an increasingly important role in saving lives, promoting food security and enabling economic growth. But the kind of regulations needed to scale up this technology is not there yet. We created the Drone Innovators Network to bring together a community of government pioneers to inspire and show what is possible.”

The inaugural Drone Innovators Network meeting was held in Switzerland, where companies like Matternet have demonstrated the practicality and value of drone deliveries of medical supplies and blood samples in over 1,700 flights. The California-based logistics company partnered with Swiss Post for these missions and has seen nothing but success, which would’ve been hindered by restrictive government regulation. 

“The close collaboration between institutes of technology, industry and the authorities makes Switzerland an attractive location for start-ups, companies and academic research,” explained Doris Leuthard, Federal Councillor in Switzerland. “Switzerland is, therefore, playing a pioneering role in this area today.” On top of that, the first nationwide demo of an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system took place in Switzerland today, an impressive feat accomplished by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation in collaboration with Parrot, Matternet, and unmanned navigation companies AirMap and Skyguide. 

Ultimately, bringing together professionals from all sectors of the global drone industry in order to advance drone policy is a brilliant move, and one seemingly vital if we want to see the substantial implementation of drone tech in our lifetime. By combining the corporate and professional experience with governmental entities and their legislative credibility, it’s groups like the Drone Innovators Network that are at the forefront of using rational thought and tangible evidence to get some more effective drone policy written into law.