For the past few years, the main mechanism used by the U.S. against China in the U.S.-Chinese tech war has been Executive Orders limiting (or even banning) certain software and drones manufactured and/or owned by Chinese companies from use by government agencies. Now, instead of only playing defense against Chinese technology, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  and Todd Young (R-IN) have teamed up to support the Endless Frontier Act (Act). Originally introduced in 2020, S. 3832 will be revamped and made a keystone of this new Act.

The bipartisan group in Congress seeks to invest in U.S. education, science, and technology as well as research and development. This Act would invest $100 billion in these areas over a five-year period. The Act, as originally submitted, would rename the National Science Foundation as the National Science and Technology Foundation, and establish two Deputy Directors, one for Science and one for Technology.

The Deputy Director of Technology would oversee a newly created Directorate for Technology whose  goals include:

  • Creation of stronger leadership in critical technologies through research in key technology focus areas;
  • Improving education in key technology focus areas and making it more attractive for students to become involved in those areas;
  • Increasing federally-funded research and development to achieve national goals related to economic competitiveness, domestic manufacturing, national security, shared prosperity, energy and the environment, health, education and workforce development, and transportation

The ten key focus areas would be:

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AIML);
  • High performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware;
  • Quantum computing and information systems;
  • Robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing;
  • Natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention;
  • Advanced communications technology;
  • Biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology;
  • Cybersecurity, data storage, and data management technologies;
  • Advanced energy; and,
  • Materials science, engineering, and relevant exploration relevant

For the drone industry this is great news. The Act would increase scholarships, fellowships and other student support in areas including AIML, automation, robotics and advanced manufacturing, which are all important to autonomous flight. However, the fate of the Endless Frontier Act is still unknown. We will follow its path through Congress and see if it may pave the way for more legislation like it.