Drones will produce 70,000 new U.S. jobs, study says

Report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts applications ranging from agriculture to entertainment will give rise to an entire new industry.

Lately, there has been a lot of controversy over the specter of pilotless drones buzzing across U.S. skies, spying on and targeting citizens on the ground. While there is potential for abuse, the use of drones also offers new capabilities in police work, mapping, agriculture, conservation and scientific studies. As a result, a whole new industry will be created, proponents say.

Photo credit: Aerovironment Media Relations

That's the word from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which just published a new study that predicts the drone aircraft industry may potentially create more than 70,000 new American jobs in the first three years following the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into U.S. skies. Integration is scheduled to take place in 2015. In the long term, more than 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025.

This is a politically charged time for the drone industry, with questions arising about privacy rights, and even the potential use of weapons. So the study comes at an opportune time, with AUVSI projecting the total economic impact stemming from the integration is projected to surpass $13.6 billion and "will grow sustainably for the foreseeable future," cumulating in more than $82.1 billion in impact by the year 2025.

Economic impact includes the monies that flow to manufacturers and suppliers from the sale of new products as well as the taxes and monies that flow into communities and support the local businesses, according to Darryl Jenkins, a past professor at George Washington University and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and author of the AUVSI report.

Jenkins observes that drones can be readily mass-produced, and typically require bachelors-degree-level skills to develop. Other industry-watchers concur -- Jerry Brito of sUAS News recently pointed out that the technology has become widely available:

"Small drones are made from many of the same components as smartphones, and the economies of scale of that industry have driven the cost of gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS chips, and CPUs to the ground. As a result, the widespread use of drones in commerce is imminent."

Leading drone applications include the following:

Precision agriculture: This is expected to be the largest market for drone technology, the AUVSI study finds. "UAS will help farmers monitor crops and distribute pesticides, which could not only help improve efficiency, but also reduce the total amount of pesticides sprayed, saving money and reducing environmental impact."

Public safety: Drones have the capability to provide eyes in the sky to help police and firefighters at crime or fire scenes. Drones will also aid in disaster management and wildfire mapping.

News and entertainment: Drones will be instrumental in television news coverage, sporting events and movie-making.

Energy: Drones will play a role in oil and gas exploration. Utilities can also use drones to survey power lines.

Weather and environment: Pilotless drones can safely observe weather events such as hurricanes, as well as help monitor environmental conditions.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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