In a move that emphasizes similarities over differences, AOPA has decided to make room at the table for some (relative) newcomers. On February 21, the organization opened up membership options for a group that has already faced a good bit of controversy both in the air and on the ground: Drone pilots.
“As newcomers to the skies, they have told us they are looking for a trusted source to help them get the most out of their flying, protect their license and their assets, and keep them up to date on regulations and issues…” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We believe we are stronger as a united community, and welcome these new pilots with hope that our common goals of safety and freedom to fly will be achieved together.”
The FAA estimates that there will be 1.3 million Part 107 certified drone pilots by 2020. While quite a few drone operators have prior experience with manned flight, AOPA points out that an ever-growing number will be taking to the air with no previous connections to the general aviation community. The organization hopes that by offering these new memberships, manned and unmanned aircraft operators will have a common forum to share their experiences and discuss how to make flying better, safer, and more accessible for everyone. Critics worry that the potential influx of large numbers of new members who are not aircraft owners or pilots will dilute their value to the organization as well as creating conflicting priorities with the group’s advocacy efforts.
Learn more at AOPA.