Florida Deputy Manager Fired Over Secret Lobbyist Work, Including for Skydio Dronemaker

A deputy manager employed by Collier County lost his job after it was discovered he was clandestinely working as a lobbyist for several clients, including American dronemaker Skydio.

Naples Daily News reported that Sean Callahan had secretly been working for lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck while also holding his position within the Collier County Government.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is among the lobbyist firms hired by Skydio to push for legislation supporting the use of Blue sUAS drones over Chinese-made alternatives, such as those from and DJI.

Callahan's failure to disclose his lobbyist work led to his termination, as revealed by official documents. The lobbyist resigned from the lobbying firm shortly after his dismissal.

Callahan began working for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in March, the same month the county approved his request for an extended Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave of absence, as The Naples Daily reported after obtaining his personnel file.

Callahan and a team of lobbyists received $200,000 from Skydio, a drone manufacturer headquartered in Redwood City, .

Skydio aggressively lobbying for Blue sUAS

Skydio's lobbying efforts in Florida culminated in a significant decision by the Florida Department of Management Services, which now restricts government agencies to purchasing or acquiring drones only from approved manufacturers listed under the program.

As of January 1, 2022, government agencies can only purchase from five manufacturers, including Skydio, in accordance with section 934.50 of the Florida Statutes.

Approved Drone Manufacturers

In accordance with section 934.50, Florida Statutes, as of January 1, 2022, a governmental agency (as defined in section 934.50, Florida Statutes) may only purchase or otherwise acquire a drone from a manufacturer on the approved list. Governmental agencies may continue to utilize drones not on the department's approved list until January 1, 2023.

Pursuant to section 934.50(7)(b), Florida Statutes, the department hereby provides the following list of approved manufacturers whose drones may be purchased or otherwise acquired and used by a governmental agency under section 934.50, Florida Statutes:

This list provides approved manufacturers but does not guarantee that all models produced by these manufacturers meet an individual governmental agency's specific needs or security requirements. Beginning July 1, 2022, all governmental agencies using drones not on the department's approved list must submit a comprehensive plan for discontinuing their use to the department. The Comprehensive Plan to Discontinue the Use of Unapproved Drones (PUR 6074) may be found on the State Purchasing (PUR) Forms webpage.

Please monitor this website and the Florida Administrative Register for updates related to the department's obligations under section 934.50(7), Florida Statutes.

Florida Department of Management Services

In 2021, Skydio reported spending $340,000 on 18 lobbyists, a significant increase from the $160,000 spent in 2020 and a mere $10,000 in 2019.

Skydio's aggressive lobbying strategy appears to have paid off, securing a spot on the coveted list of approved drone manufacturers for Florida's government agencies.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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