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Businessman shares vision for Guam drone industry

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The potential for Guam to attract businesses in the commercial drone industry was discussed during a public hearing on Bill 217-35, introduced by Sen. James Moylan, which aims to offer tax incentives under the Guam Economic Development Authority Qualifying Certificate Program.

Art Dawley, president of Aviation Concepts LLC, based at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, told the legislative panel the development of the drone industry could be a “huge opportunity for Guam.”

Art Dawley

Dawley, who has 26 years of aviation business experience, testified about the appeal of Guam.

Aviation Concepts LLC announced last year the addition of its latest business, Tech Center Guam, which offers a drone training school and drone port.

“Guam is very unique in that it sits on a huge expanse of ... air space that would, for potential investors, be very, very attractive,” he said. “This type of airspace is very, very difficult to find anywhere else in the world, and particularly in North America.”

Aviation Concepts has touted its drone training program as having the advantage of offering FAA-compliant training and certifications in a U.S. territory just a three- to four-hour flight away from many destinations in major Asian cities including Tokyo, Manila and Seoul.

Dawley said currently the only U.S. testing sites are off the coast of California and Texas, and the wait list can be up to three years.

“Right now, Guam could be open,” he said. “It could easily attract these companies that don’t have time to wait.”

But Dawley stressed the importance of developing training programs to create a local talent pool and workforce in order to support such an industry, and recommended the language in the bill be expanded to include such provisions.

“Our ability to train the next generation of aviation aerospace professionals will be contingent upon attracting these companies. ... These companies will not come unless these types of training programs are here, and a local talent pool can be developed,” Dawley said.

He said while many eyes in the industry are focused on Guam, incentives are needed to bring companies to such a remote location.

“Guam is on the radar of almost everybody,” he said. “Without an incentive like the QC...it’s a long way to come, it’s a long way to move companies.”

He said much of the potential business could be generated by more complex drone operations, referred to as “beyond visual line of sight” operations that require protected air spaces hundreds of square miles in size.

While Guam may still need to build a talent pool to support the industry, it does already have some necessary technology in place with fiber optics and the availability of 5G, he said.

Dawley said Guam has the potential to be a “beacon of technology.”

Artemio Ricky Hernandez, a deputy administrator for the Guam Economic Development Authority, testified that he is “supportive of the intention of the bill,” but he told senators he would recommend language be included to offer more “clarity” on the eligibility rules.

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