Florida’s unmanned industrial management in 2022

Florida will be at the heart of drones and autonomous vehicle systems in 2022

With a new venture by the AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter, the Sunshine State is ready to expand its leadership role in the field of unmanned ground, air and sea-based systems.

The following is a guest post by Christopher Todd, President of the AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter and CEO of AIRT. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payments from guest posts.

In a speech at AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL in Atlanta in August 2021, Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), one of the state’s foremost proponents of electrical and autonomous vehicle systems, quoted an ancient Florida slang around the To express industry of the unmanned vehicle systems: “somewhere between lightning and thunder.” Or in lay language; we have seen the “lightning” and are now waiting for the “boom”.

One of these “booms” hit last week with a thunderous effect.

In the evening hours of 2021, Florida’s Department of Management Services (DMS) pitched a hornet’s nest by publishing the state-mandated and eagerly awaited list of approved drone manufacturers. The manner in which the list was published created significant confusion in the public safety drone community and left Florida first responders and government contractors using drones scratching their heads.

It remains to be seen in which direction the list of DMS-approved drone manufacturers will develop in the coming months. One thing is certain; that the fireworks volley was just a preview of the many significant industry developments we can expect from Florida in 2022.

Florida has a rich aerospace history. From Miami, which served as the first naval base of operations for Pan Am Clipper Flights in the Caribbean and Latin America in 1931, to Amelia Earhart, who made her fateful voyage around the world from Miami on 1st space exploration by private industry, Florida was always at the forefront of the spear, when it came to promoting manned flight.

Nonetheless, the state has largely taken a “wait and see” approach to unmanned aviation.

All of that is changing.

It’s no secret that Florida has had an absolute rift lately. As the COVID pandemic rages elsewhere in the country, Florida appears to be returning to normal. The “Freedom First” policy of Governor Ron DeSantis is having a dramatic effect in ensuring that Florida’s economic engine continues to thrive. For the past four straight years, Florida has invested over $ 10 billion a year in its Department of Transportation. Enterprise Florida has attracted all types of companies looking to relocate to Florida to do business. Last November, Florida had employment numbers six times faster than the national average.

Chief Executive Magazine ranked Florida the 2nd best state for doing business in the US, and Forbes Magazine ranked Miami the # 1 happiest place to work in the US On Income Tax and Low Corporate Income Tax.

Oh, and did I mention the weather?

The business momentum Florida is currently experiencing coincides with a resurgence in activity on Florida’s Space Coast, the continued development of new systems for use by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa, and the emergence of Miami and South Florida as a new technology and the cryptocurrency epicenter that connects the United States with the Caribbean, Latin America, and other international markets.

When you add up all of the positive qualities Florida has to offer, it is confusing that no more companies have set up camp and moved to the Sunshine State. And that brings us back to unmanned systems.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is the world’s leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting unmanned systems and robotics. The AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter (AUVSI Florida) is the regional chapter with responsibility for most of the state

AUVSI Florida ushers in the new year with the bold forecast that 2022 will be the year Florida emerges as the undisputed pioneer in supporting the use of drones, autonomous vehicles and marine robotic systems to improve the quality of life.

Florida has already established itself as a leader in autonomous land vehicle transportation. The Florida Automated Vehicles Summit – Brandes’ idea – has become perhaps the leading state conference focusing on unmanned vehicle technology in the United States. Autonomous Florida, a Florida Chamber of Commerce program, has worked hard to strengthen Florida’s autonomous vehicle ecosystem. Autonomous trucks full of goods are now rolling down Florida’s highways, and autonomous cars are constantly traversing the streets of the greater Miami area.

The arrival of AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from April 25th to 28th will help put even more focus on the use of unmanned vehicles in the air, ground and sea areas.

Widely regarded as the largest exhibition for unmanned vehicle systems, XPONENTIAL will bring a community of end users, technologists and policy makers together to write the next chapter in autonomous innovation. AUVSI Florida will act as the official host chapter for XPONENTIAL 2022.

Florida has an incredibly rich history of marine, ground, air, and spacecraft use. XPONENTIAL’s arrival in Orlando will help usher Florida into the new era of autonomous transportation.

Complementing the arrival of XPONENTIAL, the addition of several new team members to the AUVSI Florida Executive Committee and Board of Directors will help the chapter raise awareness and generate positive public awareness of the use of drones and other automated vehicle technologies.

The members of AUVSI Florida have chosen an all-star team to usher in a new era of unmanned system innovation for Florida. These new voices will work with the Chapter’s partners from industry, government, academia, and nonprofit sectors to advance robotic vehicle systems and help Florida redefine this amazing new technology.

The new leadership team at AUVSI Florida with effect from January 1, 2022 includes:


  1. President: Christopher Todd, Airborne International Response Team (AIRT)
  2. Vice President: Eric Schwartz, Florida Power and Light Company (FPL)
  3. Secretary: François Xavier Charbonnel, Parrot Drones
  4. Treasurer: Paulette Vroblefski, Quiet Professionals


  1. Director, Immediate Past President: John Lambert, Nexutech
  2. Director, Jacksonville Satellite Chapter: Zach Dewey, KBR
  3. Director, Miami Satellite Chapter: Andy Jaques, Raven Strategic Partners
  4. Director, Space Coast Satellite Chapter: Todd Hillhouse, Planet Inhouse
  5. Director, Tampa Satellite Chapter: Charles Arant, Tnara Operations Group
  6. Director, training: Brent Terwilliger, Ph.D., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  7. Director, company: Michael McVay, Florida Drone Supply
  8. Director, Maritime: Jack Rowley, Maritime Tactical Systems
  9. Director, Public Security: Robert Dooley, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)

In addition to being the official host chapter for XPONENTIAL, the leadership of AUVSI Florida plans to strengthen relationships between the chapter and AUVSI members and organizational partners across Florida.

“The Sunshine State has an enormous undeveloped ecosystem for unmanned systems that includes individual members and organizational partners of AUVSI,” said Eric Schwartz, Vice President of AUVSI Florida. “We want to harness the power of these relationships to create value for all of our members while driving the industry across Florida.”

AUVSI Florida will also support the use of unmanned systems by state public safety agencies through the recently announced DRONERESPONDERS Florida Public Safety Coordination Group (FLOGRU). This includes helping the Florida Public Safety Authorities understand and adapt to the new list of Florida approved drone manufacturers.

Larry Wood is the assistant senior remote pilot in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He is also the new Vice President of the AUVSI Miami Satellite Chapter. Despite some of the potential challenges DMS’s new list poses, Wood believes that Florida’s public safety agencies will eventually overcome and adapt.

“The end result is to identify UAS technology that can safely and successfully complete our missions and then put that technology in the hands of our remote public safety pilots,” says Wood. “The DRONERESPONDERS Florida Group will provide a common voice to make this happen.”

With the Miami explosion as the technology epicenter and gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America, the AUVSI Miami Chapter (AUVSI Miami) plans to leverage those strengths to combine unmanned vehicle systems with emerging technology and real estate development talks.

“Miami is seen by Latin Americans in the same way as North Americans see Silicon Valley,” says Andy Jaques, the new director of AUVSI Miami. “When you combine that concept with the sensational growth that South Florida has seen across the technology sector, it is an ideal environment for unmanned and autonomous technologies to thrive – both within Florida and internationally.”

Jaques also believes that South Florida will soon become an epicenter for the development of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Miami-Dade County for the implementation of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), particularly with economic development organizations like the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, those in creating a business climate in the region.

“The Miami area has all the attributes that one could wish for when implementing a UAM strategy,” says Jaques. “High population density in a relatively small geographic area combined with an incredible need to move people faster and more efficiently – for both business, tourism and luxury travel. If you consider additional properties such as climate, weather, terrain and infrastructure capacity, Miami becomes an extremely lucrative metropolitan area to implement air taxis and other AAM models. “

When you watch the unmanned systems industry evolve in 2022, one thing is certain; You will continue to hear Florida often on the news, social media, and private conversations. Think of it as a friendly reminder every time that big things are happening down in the Sunshine State. We invite you to be there!

To learn more about the AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter or any of the satellite chapters in Miami, Jacksonville, the Space Coast, and Tampa, and how you can get involved, visit auvsiflorida.org. Information about AUVSI XPONENTIAL, including registration and exhibitor information, is available at http://xponential.org. For more information on the Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, visit favsummit.com.

Christopher Todd is President of the AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter and Executive Director of AIRT, Inc., the country’s leading 501 (c) 3 organization supporting emergency drones and the official home of DRONERESPONDERS – the world’s fastest growing program, the Advances are made in the use of unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS) for public safety. Chris is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®) and FAA Certified Remote Pilot who also works as an entrepreneur and consultant and has helped build multi-billion dollar companies in the tech industry.

Related Articles