Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai – Kalama Valley), along with Representative Angus McKelvey (D- West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei), Senator Will Espero (D- ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) and others attended an inaugural meeting on Tuesday to establish the very first AeroSpace Caucus at the Hawaii State Capitol.
The group of about 20 included members of the aerospace industry and academia. Attendees discussed the caucus’s purpose as well as possible legislation and other activities for the 2014 session. The formation of an aerospace caucus comes in response to many exciting developments in the aerospace field which could result in the generation of billions of dollars in economic activity and place Hawaii among a select few states at the forefront of a cutting edge industry.
“The creation of the AeroSpace Caucus provides an opportunity for all the legislators to share theirmana‘o on how we can move the aerospace industry forward in Hawaii,” said Representative McKelvey. “In turn, Hawaii residents will be able to reap the educational, economic, environmental and cultural benefits of the aerospace industry,” McKelvey added.
In December of 2013, the FAA selected six teams to conduct a study of how to integrate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the national airspace for commercial applications and as a result Hawaii will become one of the testing locations. Commercial space ventures and a laser communications ground terminal were also mentioned as potentially on the horizon, as well as the need to further promote thePacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.
In addition to capitalizing on the potential business that an aerospace sector could bring to Hawaii, some attendees voiced their hope that theAeroSpace Caucus could also promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) amongst students in the state, pointing out that unmanned aircraft are essentially flying robots.
“This is all about preparing Hawaii for the future with driverless cars, remotely controlled airplanes, submarines, and spacecraft. All these things require a well-supported tech industry that can bring high-paying, stable jobs to Hawaii,” said Representative Ward.
The AeroSpace Caucus will convene for its second meeting next week to discuss numerous Bills that cover the subject, with an objective of taking the conversation to the next step: legislation, including shoring up privacy fears about unmanned aircraft.