How Drone Ready Is Your State? And Which States Are the Most and the Least Prepared?

BY Zacc Dukowitz
30 August 2022

Is your state ready to adopt drones?

A recent report from non-profit think tank The Mercatus Center, which is based at George Mason University, evaluates each state’s drone readiness to reveal the states that are the most and the least prepared to support the growth of the drone industry there.

The report is presented in an interactive map, allowing you to hover over a state to see its score and click on the state to get its full report card.

drone-ready-map

When you click into a given state, the reasons for the score given is provided in detail, allowing you to understand the rationale behind the scoring.

Here’s an example overview for the state Tennessee, where UAV Coach is headquartered:

tennessee-drone-readiness

How Drone Readiness Is Determined

To make the report, researchers ranked states using six factors.

Each factor was assigned points based on how important they were, with 100 being the total number of points possible.

Creating a clear and coherent framework at the state and local level, such as a system of drone highways, will make parcel delivery faster, improve distribution of medical supplies, and create jobs in the technology and logistics sectors.

– Brent Skorup, Mercatus Senior Research Fellow and creator of the 2022 drone readiness scorecard

Here are the six factors used to evaluate each state’s drone readiness:

1. Airspace Lease Laws—30 points

These are laws that allow local and/or state governments to lease the airspace above either private property or public roads. These laws are potentially a good thing in the eyes of the researchers, because they can “allow state or local officials to create drone highways above these roadways.”

2. Avigation Easement Laws—25 points

Avigation easement refers to the use of airspace over someone’s property. Laws about avigation easement could expressly protect a drone pilot’s right to fly over private property. They could also hypothetically establish the requirement for drone pilots to pay a fee in order to fly over a piece of property, by extending the landowner’s rights into the sky above their land.

3. Drone Task Force or Program Offices—20 points

Does the state have a special task force, program office, or some other kind of focus group specifically for drone operations?

4. Laws Vesting Landowners with Air Rights—10 points

These are laws that clarify what rights a property owner has regarding the airspace above their land. According to the researchers, these kinds of laws actually reduce litigation risks for both drone pilots and landowners by making clear the boundaries of their property rights.

5. Sandbox—10 points

A drone sandbox refers to dedicated, state-sponsored testing facilities and airspace for commercial drone testing that are publicly known and available for drone companies to test their hardware and services.

6. Jobs estimate—5 points

How many drone jobs are there in the state per resident, based on data from ZipRecruiter.

How Drone Ready Is Your State?

So what is the top drone ready state? Oklahoma.

And the least? Mississippi.

Here is the full list of state rankings:

drone-ready-report-cards

Something that jumps out as you scan these rankings is that there isn’t a single area of the country that’s winning the drone readiness game.

Another thing we found interesting is that Oklahoma beat North Dakota for the top spot.

North Dakota is commonly known as one of the biggest drone innovation centers not just in the U.S., but the world. Right now it’s building out a state-wide drone network to support BVLOS operations under the FAA’s BEYOND program, and making good progress in that effort.

xcel-energy-bvlos
A drone from Xcel Energy conducting a solar farm inspection in North Dakota

Nonetheless, Oklahoma beats out North Dakota by four points, primarily because it has airspace lease laws and North Dakota doesn’t (although North Dakota does have slightly more drone jobs—it got 5/5 on that criteria while Oklahoma got 4/5). Another factor helping Oklahoma is that it also has a BEYOND partnership, which is in place with the state’s Choctaw Nation (the Choctaw Nation was an original UAS IPP program participant).

And North Dakota doesn’t even get to hold its second place alone—Arkansas ties the state for second due primarily to its having airspace lease laws and avigation easement laws.

Big picture, it’s worth noting that while the total possible score was 100, the highest score achieved was 74. Although we’re making good strides in the U.S., this fact is an indication of the work we still need to do to be 100% ready to embrace drone adoption.

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