UAS Horizons: Leadership & Law with Dawn Zoldi

Mar 21, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Circle Optics latest program 360° Pulse Podcast UAS Horizons: Leadership and Law. with guest Dawn Zoldi features a wide range of topics including: the tension between innovation and regulation, global regulatory perspectives, the future of AAM, environmental and social impacts of autonomous systems.

Circle Optics has been part of the AUVSI community for the past four years. In fact our Director of Marketing is the current Vice President of the Empire State Chapter of AUVSI

For those not familiar The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed systems and robotics, represents corporations and professionals from more than 60 countries involved in industry, government and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.  

Their signature event is XPONTENTIAL– dedicated to air autonomy and all associated technologies. Our COO Ian Gauger and Jennifer Sertl will be attending with the GENIUS NY community at booth number #3637. 

Last year we met Dawn Zoldi and have been informed and inspired by her work as an expert in the field. Dawn M.K. Zoldi, a retired Colonel of the U.S. Air Force, is a distinguished licensed attorney with 28 years of service in active duty military and federal civil roles. As the CEO & Founder of P3 Tech Consulting, she is renowned for her expertise in uncrewed aircraft system law and policy, recognized by media outlets such as CNN, Forbes, and Newsweek, and has been featured on the Public Broadcasting Service.  In 2023, her Dawn of Drones podcast was recognized as the “Best Drone Podcast of the Year” by  The Droning Company. She has also received the Airwards People’s Choice Industry Impactor Award (‘22), was recognized as one of the Top Women in Aerospace & Aviation to Follow on LinkedIn (‘21-’22). Clearly she is a leading figure in aerospace and aviation.

We hope you enjoy our latest episode of 360° Pulse Podcast.

Share some of the most significant legal and ethical challenges we face today in the integration of advanced air mobility and urban air traffic management

The legal, regulatory, and policy framework significantly influences progress or acts as a barrier in the unmanned aircraft system sector. Currently, a significant challenge is the absence of a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) rule. The Aviation Rulemaking Committee for BVLOS released its findings in March 2021, but there has been little progress since then. Although the FAA has granted several exemptions and waivers, the lack of a formal rule or a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking remains a problem. Scalable, repeatable one-to-many BVLOS operations are essential for numerous applications, including drone delivery, precision agriculture, and linear inspections.

Urban air mobility and advanced air mobility present related but distinct challenges, with a notable overlap being the absence of a rule for UAS Traffic Management (UTM). UTM’s relevance to both the drone industry and advanced air mobility is critical because drones and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will share the same low-altitude airspace. The need for a management system for these anticipated ubiquitous flights is evident. While there are operational concepts from NASA and the FAA, Europe has moved ahead with the implementation of the U-space regulation, effective this year. The issue primarily lies not with technological limitations, as significant advancements have been made, but with the pace of regulatory progress.

How does your technology company plan to balance innovation, safety, and privacy amid changing governance strategies?

Considering the concept of innovation as an overarching theme above the foundational elements of safety, security, and privacy, these aspects form the core pillars supporting progress within the technology sector. With a focus on standards, laws, and regulations, notable advancements have been made in the realm of security. For instance, AUVSI’s cybersecurity group is actively developing standards, complemented by initiatives like the Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue UAS, focusing on cybersecurity, especially in drone connectivity. NIST’s cybersecurity standards further illustrate progress in this area.

Privacy, on the other hand, presents a subjective challenge, heavily influenced by individual perceptions and complex legal frameworks. Unlike security, privacy lacks a uniform federal law in the United States, being primarily regulated at the state level. This leads to a diverse landscape of laws concerning facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and consumer protection, which apply privacy principles to data collected and shared online, including data from drones. Navigating this complex legal environment requires thorough understanding or legal assistance to avoid potential pitfalls.

Safety is unequivocally governed by the FAA, underscoring the importance of adhering to existing regulations and anticipating future rules, such as those for beyond visual line of sight operations. These three elements—safety, security, and privacy—are crucial for the development and ethical deployment of unmanned and autonomous systems, influencing the entire industry.This integrated approach to innovation, grounded in the triad of safety, security, and privacy, is a central theme in my work, including writings, talks, and the Law Tech Connect workshop. These discussions aim to address the multifaceted challenges facing the industry. My platform to share this information is P3 Tech Consulting where podcast Dawn of Autonomy, articles, and Law-Tech Connect panels are available for further exploration.

How do you effectively manage and prioritize information to share the most important insights?

I am fortunate to collaborate with a variety of global companies and experts, gaining substantial knowledge through these interactions. For example, I have the opportunity to interview Denver Hopkins, CEO of Horizon Robotics, on my podcast this week, which will allow me to learn about the company in real-time alongside the audience. This diversity of interaction across companies and individuals worldwide is invaluable.

Additionally, attending industry events such as AUVSI Exponential, where I partner with AUVSI for the Dawn of Autonomy podcast and my Law Tech Connect workshop, offers another layer of learning through networking and direct engagement with the community.

In terms of gathering daily information, while I prefer not to disclose all my sources, there are numerous newsletters that prove to be essential for staying updated. Among them, Drone Life by Miriam McNabb and the content produced by Stuart Smith and his team at The Droning Company are noteworthy. These sources, along with my background in national security, guide me to resources like military embedded systems and Breaking Defense. Legal updates relevant to my background as a JAG and general counsel are also crucial, accessed via listservs and subscriptions, including the American Bar Association.

Dedicating less than an hour daily to scan these sources usually yields valuable insights. I encourage subscribing to newsletters, including the P3 Tech newsletter available through my website, to stay informed. Participating in events, engaging in conversations, and following industry leaders on LinkedIn, such as Yves Morier for European regulatory updates, are also recommended practices for acquiring knowledge.

By leveraging a combination of personal engagement, curated information sources, and professional networks, I navigate and share the vast landscape of information within the tech industry.

What is your leadership philosophy?

Leadership is a topic deeply important to me, embodying principles I’ve carried from my time in the Air Force. The journey from a first lieutenant to acquiring more significant roles taught me that leadership transcends position, focusing instead on how one engages and supports others. This belief led to the creation of the Full Tilt podcast, dedicated to Tech Industry Leadership talks, emphasizing that everyone, regardless of their role in an organization, exhibits leadership qualities. Leadership involves respecting, appreciating, and empowering individuals, fostering an environment where people are motivated to meet and exceed expectations, and equally, acknowledging and learning from failures.In collaboration with Women and Drones, alongside industry leaders like Marlene Conway Dials from the Diversity Develop Network of Canada, we conducted a survey on diversity within the drone industry. Garnering over a thousand responses highlighted that effective leadership and workforce development hinge not on programs or political correctness but on genuine, respectful treatment of individuals. This approach underlines the essence of leadership – creating opportunities, recognizing achievements, and supporting through challenges, which resonates with my passion for the subject and its critical importance across all levels of an organization.

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