June 26, 2012

Drone Lobby Group Brands Itself As “Academic” Organization; But Funds Come Primarily From Weapons Makers

Drone Lobby Group Brands Itself As "Academic" Organization; But Funds Come Primarily From Weapons MakersIn February, we broke an exclusive story on how the drone industry had worked to shape a new law that will allow thousands of unmanned aircraft to fly over America in coming years. A powerpoint we recovered from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVS), a drone trade group, boasted that drone company lobbyists’ suggestions for the law were “taken word-for-word” by lawmakers. Indeed, drone lobbying has doubled in recent years.

As drone lobbyists are facing increasing criticism from both right and left, AUVS, the leading pro-drone group, is attempting to rebrand as an academic and philanthropic organization. Yesterday, the group purchased advertisements on Twitter promoting the use of drones to monitor endangered species. On its website, the group advertises that it sponsors science fairs and competitions to “challenge a new generation of engineers to design and build unmanned vehicles capable of performing realistic missions in varying environments, as well as to foster ties between young engineers and the organizations developing unmanned technologies.” And yes, the drone lobby does provide support for research programs at Kansas State and several other universities.

However, the public should not be confused about the true backers of drone lobby groups like AUVS. A recently filed report shows that the top donors to AUVS (Diamond and Platinum level members provide substantially higher levels of dues) are some of the biggest military contractors and makers of weaponized drones, including:

— DRS Defense Solutions
— L-3 communications
— Raytheon Company
— General Atomics
— General Dynamics
— Lockheed Martin Corporation
— Honeywell
— The Boeing Company