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)