Archive for January, 2014

Civil Beat Oped: Rep. Gene Ward: Unmanned Aircraft Coming Soon to Hawaii

Honolulu Civil Beat
By Gene Ward

For many of us, the acronym UAV (which stands for unmanned aerial vehicle) is synonymous with weaponized drones and faraway airstrikes we occasionally read about in the news. Contrary to this view and the Star Advertiser’s (“Let’s be clear about limits of drone use” January 05, 2014) equally cautious perspective, there is another side to this over-militarized view of our advanced flying technologies.


Sometimes we forget that the military is often the testing grounds that immensely benefits civil society through later commercial applications. Take for example the discoveries of antibiotics, jet travel, the Internet, and GPS that were advanced by U.S. military investments that paved the way for mainstream commercial applications. Can anyone imagine life on this planet without the Internet?


UAVs thus have numerous applications which can serve to improve our lives in Hawaii and the world as a whole. One of the more popularized examples of this made headlines when CEO Jeff Bezos declared his company’s interest in using drones to deliver packages directly to customers’ doorsteps.


And while it is easy to shrug the idea off as overly optimistic or a PR stunt, UAVs of similar size are already available to hobby and toy consumers. Brookstone, for example, sells a helicopter that can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet and includes an onboard camera. Where it once took countless hours to master control of such aircraft, advancements in microelectronics have given anyone the ability to fly them relatively easily.


Now businesses have become very interested in integrating UAV technology into their operations. But UAV flight is currently all but prohibited for anything but government operations. In order to eventually change that, the FAA has established testing sites for UAV flight that will try to determine how to integrate the technology into the existing national airspace and develop rules that commercial operators must follow.


The state of Hawaii will become the location of some of this testing. The state’s diverse topography and ample airspace over the ocean make it well-suited to perform such testing. The unmanned aircraft being tested can range in size from as small as 2.5 pounds and the size of a smoke detector up to 50 pounds with a wingspan of approximately 10 feet.


Designing UAVs that can perform a wide variety of missions including agricultural work, infrastructure inspection, wildlife management, film production, and weather forecasting presents Hawaii with the opportunity to be a leader in multi-billion dollar industry which could attract high-paying, stable jobs. UAVs could even save lives by searching for victims after a natural disaster or tracking the movement of a shark lurking along popular beaches.


Despite the obvious benefit that UAVs could provide, they have been routinely criticized for their capacity to breach the privacy of American citizens in a manner never before seen. And this capacity, coupled with mounting concerns over government spying programs have vilified the UAV’s image with much of the public.


This fact, however, must not and surely will not stop their development. While the nation continues to debate Big Brother programs that have collected ever more information about our personal lives, we should not turn our backs on a technology that has the potential to transform the world we live in for the better.


Instead, we should focus on adopting the beneficial applications of UAV technology while insisting on their proper oversight and regulation.  That is why some of us are forming an AeroSpace Caucus in the Hawaii State Legislature and have introduced bills this session that will promote as well as tame UAV activity in Hawaii.

Rep. Ward January 2014 Newsletter

Rep. WardJanuary 2014 Newsletter

January 2014 Newsletter

Rationale for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” Bill: Why I Introduced HB1516

Many of Hawaii’s residents have seen their children rise into higher prosperity through hard work coupled with the attainment of a college education. But with tuition costs being higher than ever before, fewer members of our state are able to make that dream come true. House Bill 80 is an “out of the box” piece of legislation that could change the way students at the University of Hawaii pay for their education. The Bill aims to set up a pilot program to waive tuition for UH students who would then repay a fixed percent of their gross salary via an “educational garnishing fund.” There are three primary reasons that I support this “pay it forward, pay it back” concept.

 By Rep. Gene Ward

First, we desperately need to turn around the “dumbing down” of America. That is to say, for the first time we are witnessing a generation where the parents are more highly educated than their children. It used to be a given that each new generation of Americans would have completed more years of schooling than the previous, but today that is no longer the case. This could have detrimental effects not only for the United States’ competitive standing in the world, but for the income-earning power and well-being of Hawaii’s youth. Today’s youth are not less intelligent or lazier, rather the prospect of dealing with large student debt has prevented many high school graduates from continuing their education.


Second, we need to curb the rising cost of higher education and the debt burden we are placing on graduates. The average student faces $35,200 worth of student debt upon graduation in 2013. This number is only an average, however, and many graduates face much higher burdens. The huge amount of student debt in our country has resulted in much of it simply not being paid back. For students at the University of Hawaii, tuition has risen 50% over the past 5 years alone, and a variety of mandatory fees are often an unexpected additional sting. With a “pay it forward, pay it back” system in place, students would not have to worry about securing loans to pay for college, which would also make it easier for students of lower-income families to attend college.


Third, we need to decrease class warfare within our state. Class warfare has become the educated vs. the uneducated. We need to ensure that as many people as possible obtain a higher education in Hawaii. An education or lack thereof can greatly change the quality of our lives; Census data reveals that Americans with just one year of college live 7 years longer and earn $35,000/year more during their lifetime. As with any new concept, there are some bugs to work out, however we do know the current model is not working.

Rep. Ward Introduces Bill to Get More Kids into College

Seal of the State of Hawaii

January 09, 2014


Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai – Kalama Valley) introduced a bill today that could potentially change the way students at the University of Hawaii system pay for their tuition, easing the burden of climbing tuition rates and student loan debt that is curbing students’ appetite for higher education.


According to a 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) , the United States is now the only major economy in the world where the younger  generation (25 years old and below) will not surpass the preceding generation in terms of schooling.


“Parents have always been less educated than their kids, but now it’s dangerously opposite in Hawaii; the parents are the smart ones; there are a number of reasons for this, but an important one is simply that the amount of debt that a college student has to absorb discourages them from going to college, ” Ward said.


Ward’s Bill would task the UH system with examining the feasibility of a pay-forward, pay back pilot program to replace the current tuition fees model.


In lieu of paying tuition or fees, students would enter contracts to pay back the university a certain percentage of their income after graduation. A similar piece of legislation already passed in Oregon last year. The Bill has garnered interest from both Republican and Democrat House members.


With out-of-state tuition costs ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year, many students simply cannot afford to attend their college of choice. The amount of student debt in the United States has surpassed a staggering $1.2 trillion.


Other students are completely forgoing a college education altogether. “It is time to act to incentivize higher education. Education is the great equalizer in Hawaii and we need to put our young people into jobs, not into debt,” Ward concluded.


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