#NCGA: Did drone co. CEO really ”co-author” new drone regulations?

We posted earlier about how new regulations on the use of unmanned drone aircraft in North Carolina *magically* appeared amid an appropriations bill that passed the state Senate.  A specific bill passed the state House, but we cannot find any evidence of a vote on that bill — or a public committee hearing on that bill — in the state Senate. 

The new regulations opened the door for law enforcement officers in North Carolina to use unmanned aircraft in the performance of their duties. Then, we learn that a startup called Olaeris — specializing in pitching drones to law enforcement —  wants to set up shop in Winston-Salem and create 200 jobs.

What struck us as curious was a passage from Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley’s LinkedIn profile where he claimed to have “Co-authored and passed into law in July 2014, the North Carolina UAS operating laws.”

lindsley

Is that language accurate?  Or did Lindsley embellish his contribution to the effort?  How many business people get to “co-author” legislation that directly benefits their companies? 

In December 2013, Olaeris announced its intention to set up its US headquarters in North Carolina.  In April 2014, the North Carolina Legislative Study Commission — a bipartisan group from both NCGA chambers — put together a proposal on drone regulations.  The documentation of the committee’s proposal indicates that Lindsley contributed to those discussions.

In June, drone regulations passed the House and headed over to the Senate.  That’s the last we heard until  August 7, when some drone regulations that align beautifully with OIaeris’s business strategy were part of an appropriations bill that passed the state Senate.  This Senate action was apparently done so stealthily that one of the House bill’s chief co-sponsors was unaware of it.

On August 14, we heard that Olaeris’s relocation to North Carolina was ”in doubt.”   Lindsley, the CEO, had some concerns:

[…] “It’s not great, it’s just OK,” Lindsley said of the drone-related legislation that passed out of the state legislature this session. “They seemed to want to take the easiest path, which was just to pass anything and then let the FAA figure it out… Ultimately, we believe that responsibility is the state’s and while now they’ve put a framework together, they’re not taking a leadership role. Eighteen months ago, North Carolina had a two-year lead over other states. Now you’ve got three to six months tops.”

Lindsley said at this point he needs a firm commitment from the state not for tax incentives – Olaeris doesn’t want any, he said – but rather that it will become the first state to implement an integrated UAV installation through a $6 million purchase contract with his company. That contract would provide for 15 UAVs to be deployed around the state to provide visual coverage to responders during future emergencies.

With such a commitment in place, Olaeris would be able to move forward with its plans for the Triad, and in the process of planning for the deployment state officials would by necessity begin to assemble a working regulatory infrastructure, he said. That would in turn encourage other UAV companies to move to the state too.

“If you want to lead this industry, you have to install actual operational equipment that can prove to the world you can do this, and that it can’t be done elsewhere,” he said.

Lindsley said he’s given the state’s Department of Commerce with whom Olaeris has been negotiating until September 25 to make the $6 million purchase commitment. He said the company has offered to be extremely flexible on the terms, including no payments due at all until a fully functioning and satisfactory system is delivered. After September 25, he said the company will make other plans. […] 

So, this guy needs $6 million from us within a month, or he’s taking his drones and going home. 

7 thoughts on “#NCGA: Did drone co. CEO really ”co-author” new drone regulations?

  1. He sounds like an extortionist to me, but then that is the corrupt world of corporate welfare, aka business incentives. It is time to drive a stake through the heart of that monster.

  2. “That’s the last we heard until August 7, when some drone regulations that align beautifully with OIaeris’s business strategy were part of an appropriations bill that passed the state Senate. This Senate action was apparently done so stealthily that one of the House bill’s chief co-sponsors was unaware of it.”

    “Stealthily”? The drone legislation was inserted into the budget in the conference committee, which was comprised of 43 House and Senate members, including two of the bill’s sponsors, the head of the House Judiciary committee that last amended it, and Tom Apodaca, the Senate Rules chair where the bill was last seen. I have a hard time believing that they didn’t ALL know about it.

    And it finally passed both the House and Senate, and heck I knew the drone language was in it before they voted for it. Do these people not read the bills at all?

    I don’t believe for a second that Tim Moffitt, ALEC Board member and Chairman of the ALEC Task Force that took on the drone issue last year, DIDN’T know that the industry/law enforcement-friendly legislation that he co-sponsored was in the budget that voted for.

    1. ALEC was once a respected limited government / free enterprise organization. Now it has been taken over by the corporate welfare crowd, and is now more a corporate welfare special interest group.

  3. Moffitt and Tillis are both ALEC Board members. Last year, around the time that the NC House leadership killed House Bill 312 (the earlier drone bill that was much tougher on privacy protection), ALEC sent out this memo to members and drone industry reps:

    http://bit.ly/1s6O1No

    “State legislators are concerned that UAV surveillance could threaten the civil liberties, especially the privacy of their constituents, so the trend in the legislatures is to err on the side of highly restrictive regulations Unfortunately, these restrictions might ultimately prevent civilian institutions from taking advantage of UAVs as a cost-effective tool to perform their duties more efficiently during a time of shrinking state budgets.”

    Sound like a sales pitch? It is. The memo goes on to offer an industry “sponsor” the ability to influence an upcoming workshop for member state legislators:

    “Two speakers who favor more restrictions on the use of UAVs have already been confirmed… ALEC wants to ensure that we approach in a balanced fashion. We will have presenters who will emphasize some of the benefits of the domestic use of UAVs, and the sponsor would be able to select two presenters that would offer this point of view.”

    ALEC – actively soliciting money from drone industry “sponsors”, in return for access to state legislators who will then go back home & decide whether and how much to regulate drones. And it’s being done “under the jurisdiction of ALEC’s International Relations Task Force/National Security Subcommittee”, chaired by… Rep. Tim Moffitt of North Carolina.

  4. Oh, Moffit’s on it? Now I’m completely okay with it. What district does Lindsley represent? And are said drones like the ones in Iron Man 2? I’m just a voter, and don’t really understand all this complicated government stuff. I also live under a rock, and kill all the food my family eats. Mostly squirrels. Possum on a good day.

  5. Brant, please get it correct. Olaeris wanted a commitment from NC to begin paying paying for an equipment purchase of $6 Million IF and only if Olaeris moved to North Carolina, spent $128 Million creating 150+ new high tech engineering jobs and followed through with many other written promises. Olaeris offered to forgo all tax breaks, economic incentives, state funding grants, free facilities and all the other tricks states use to entice companies to relocate.

    Rather than speculating (incorrectly) about the specifics and terms Olaeris requested from North Carolina, please feel free to approach the company directly, get the facts first hand, and publish them here for your readers. I would be happy to provide the entire series of events that have unfolded over the past two years including figures and terms. In summary, what you will learn is: 1) There is nothing stealthy and this plan has been developing since 2012; 2) Olaeris offered to forgo all economic incentives and payments from DOC to move to NC. (By contrast other companies are receiving millions of dollars in free grants) 3) Olaeris co-authored (with NCSU, DOT and other NC leaders) the UAS flight and safety rules that were passed into law in August 2014 and they are generic, providing no special incentive or favoritism to Olaeris. They are simply a framework for safe UAV operation. 4) Olaeris committed to spend an initial $20M in the first 2 years moving to NC and hiring staff, with further projections to spend $128M creating 150+ high tech jobs over the first 5 years with an annual salary much higher than the local averages. 6) Olaeris projected spending $10M+ per year with local NC supply chain companies, providing us fabrication work, electronics assembly, shipping and installation services, etc. (How many more jobs is that?) 5) Olaeris offered to install millions of dollars in free equipment with a guarantee to provide 911 response in under 2 minutes and reduce local burglaries, thefts and overall crime by written targets of 25% or more in the first year alone. (How would that impact property values?) 6) Olaeris asked for a commitment to begin paying for our equipment and services only AFTER meeting ALL of the objectives above, and nothing would be owed to Olaeris unless we met those promises. North Carolina leaders took 18 months to analyze that offer which expired on September 25th, after being extended from May 5th 2014. India, China, Australia and 2 other U.S. states are now on our radar for alternatives to North Carolina as a home headquarters. Personally, I find that a tragedy. Ted Lindsley, CEO, Olaeris, Inc.

    1. OK, Ted. I based this post on (1) your own LinkedIn profile, and (2) your comments in other public record sources. If I got something wrong, it’s because another media source misquoted you, or you misspoke.

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