I think this brings up a very good point which has been a source of frustration for many members for a while. Many of us have questioned the effectiveness of AUVSI especially in the sUAS class. What is even more frustrating, If AUVSI will not or cannot effectively advocate for the commercial use of sUAS, who is effective? The FAA has not made it easy so far. Without a proper voice, I can't help but wonder if much of the commercial applications will no longer be economically feasible due to over complicated requirements that make the systems too expensive for most markets.



Over the past several years AUVSI members have gone to management with ideas and proposals in an effort to improve both advocacy and the image of the UAS commercial industry. The common response was that there was no money available for projects towards what many considered to be community goals.

The track record of the association speaks for itself-

The membership numbers are anemic even with an astonishing increase in awareness and acquisition of small UAS. The public image efforts are not working and there is a lack of tangible accomplishment on the regulatory front. On the plus side, the show is a success if you don’t count the protests held by Code Pink.

We have to examine what is wrong with this picture and effort. It is for this reason the Silicon Valley Chapter President asked to see the books that are “Open to Public Inspection” for tax-exempt organizations. Being a businessperson that is the first place you look to find problems or way to better spend resources.

It would appear that a lack of resources is not the case. According to IRS Form 990, AUVSI’s Gross receipts for 2011 topped $11,702,000.00 including reserves in excess of $3,700,000.00 in stock (Members aim to find out whose stock we are holding.) The 990’s also document six-figure support for foreign chapters (Australia folded) while the domestic chapters get no financial support. Also puzzling was $301,931 in consulting fees for which the current Board Chairman told the Chapter President was spent on finding new markets for unmanned technology.

Does hiring an outside consulting firm to find expanding markets for the world’s “is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.” make sense? The best and the brightest are in the community and already understand well the emerging markets.

Furthermore, it appears that we are supporting a large staff with salaries and compensations totaling more than $3,388,000.00. Does that make sense for an industry with membership in regulatory limbo and who are suffering economically?

A DC salary comparison for 2011

Vice President of the U.S $230,700

Speaker of the House $223,500

Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court $223,500

CEO of AUVSI $216,520

Executive VP of AUVSI $182,962

U.S. Senator $174,000

U.S. Representative $174,000

Most of those on the list have a constituency larger than 7500 persons

Some of the other larger expenditures by AUVSI are $443,964 in travel expenses and $635,148 in equipment. We could only venture an uneducated guess about the travel and types of equipment purchased, but what figure the later was part of the furnishings for the $308,354 office remodel?

Whatever the case, I will again make my appeal to see the actual bookkeeping to better discern more effective ways of spending the memberships money towards the goals of membership building, grassroots advocacy and positive image building.

Link to IRS Form 990 (view the pdf)


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  • Randy, yeah... I often think the biggest problem in politics is that the pay isn't high enough.  Completely counter to what most people think.  Doesn't make a lot of sense that the Prime Minister of Canada earns less than the CEO of pretty much any company with more than 1000 employees.  Or less than your average family doctor.  What kind of talent do we attract with that?  

    Regardless, in this case, there's a fair bit of money being spent to accomplish... what?  That is really the complaint.

  • Developer

    $3.4mil sounds like a big number but it's not really a very large budget.  Salaries for high level US government representatives are very low considering their responsibilities.

  • Cancer Awareness != Cancer Research.

  • I have for a long time known about this.  A lot of these Non-Profit employees have higher salaries for their respected positions then companies that are For-Profit.  Not to get off topic but look at the salaries, benefits, bonuses, and travel for some of the largest non-profits in the U.S. (I'll leave names out) its disgusting on how little is actually spent towards the goal that the association was created around.  If you solve the problem that the association was built for they get worried that nobody will have any reason to keep stuffing their pockets.  I wish I could of got MUAVA (Midwest Unmanned Agricultural Vehicles Association) off the ground but the competition spent a lot of effort to hold it down so it couldn't get off the ground.

  • Sadly, there is at least some appearance that apart from being a typically bloated ineffectual agency, that they may actually be working at cross purposes both to the bulk of the membership and the public at large.

    They certainly appear at this point to be more a part of the problem rather than the solution.

  • 100KM
    Actually they spent the money very effectively to bring about the present situation concerning current US drone law. Look at who gives them the money.
  • This really isn't surprising.  I realized a long time ago that just because a company is "Non Profit" doesn't mean that nobody makes a "profit".  It just means that expenses equal income.  So if you have a lot of income, then you need to spend a lot of money.  Salaries, perks, and fancy offices are great ways to do that. :)

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