|Sensationalist coverage and fabricated illustrations have cemented the word "drone" as a weapon in the public psyche. But it may not be too late to change public opinion about the technology behind the word.|
This disruption had a passing resemblance to what happened to other American industries. The hard work once done by skilled, human hands was now being automated by the calculating actuators of a machine.
Automation had long since dominated the appliance, automotive, and electronics industries. But this was a brand new territory – aviation.
The reduced price and size, and the increased reliability and capability of processors, sensors and batteries meant unmanned aviation had been unleashed. A nouveau DIY revolution meant that basements and garages were once again incubating nascent technology, just as they did in the 1970s when the personal computer was being developed.
The silver lining is that the cost of search and rescue, disaster relief, monitoring wildlife, guarding endangered animals from being poached, and even medication delivery to underserved populations all could be slashed.
Like many other small startups in the unmanned aviation industry, my friend and her husband saw an opportunity. And despite criticism of slow progress on regulations, the Federal Aviation Administration also sees it. The FAA estimates that the market for commercial unmanned aerial systems will eventually reach $90 billion.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicles and Systems International (AUVSI) believes there will be an economic impact of $13.6 billion within 3 years that unmanned aircraft are integrated into the national airspace.
Where to start? What better way to get acquainted to the industry than attend one of the premier industry conference in the nation, hosted by AUVSI?
She learned about new applications for unmanned aircraft. She listened to a UAV operator who used his homemade robotic aircraft to assess flood damage in Thailand. The information gathered from the aerial vehicle allowed the government to make decisions that mitigated flooding in the country’s capital.
This was great. But when it came to talk shop, things became awkward when she used a five-letter word that began with the letter “d.”
“The conversation would just stop,” she said. “Just completely stop dead.”