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States Vie for a Lucrative Chunk of Emerging Drone Industry

With the FAA opening airspace to commercial drones in 2015, competitive states use conference to help build case to be testing and development sites.

Bridget Johnson


August 14, 2013 - 7:40 pm
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Over at the North Dakota booth, Doug McDonald, president of the Great Plains Chapter of AUVSI, said the unmanned industry is a natural fit for the state.

“North Dakota has a long history of aviation across the board,” McDonald said, and is buoyed in its quest to lure new business with the strong presence of the Defense and Homeland Security departments in the state.

He hopes businesses see an opportunity to grow in “uncongested airspace.”

State Sen. Tony Grindberg (R), an aerospace business manager, came to D.C. to support the effort, saying “education” will shape people’s opinions of unmanned technology as development and test sites come into shape.

With the Federal Aviation Administration opening airspace to commercial drones in 2015, interested states — including those at the conference — are aggressively vying to be one of the early test sites. The FAA expects to name the lucky six by the end of the year.

Privacy advocates are rushing to enact federal privacy laws governing drones to regulate government use, but advocates for the commercial uses note that federal law needs to work in tandem with states that want to embrace the technology — and take into consideration, Grindberg noted as an example, situations such as a farmer wanting to survey his land across two states that might have different laws.

“This is all part of the debate which has to happen,” Grindberg told PJM. “Those debates are healthy to the process.”

North Dakota’s Senate shot down a bill that passed in the state’s House of Representatives that would have prohibited drone use by law enforcement without a warrant and required that any pictures retrieved by drones have to be destroyed within 90 days.

Grindberg said “education and policy” will address concerns of drone opponents over time, comparing worries over the technology to fears that the advent of the Internet would cause mass intrusion into people’s privacy.

Over at the Ohio booth, which offered cookies shaped like the 17th state, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) stopped by to get an update from and encourage the representatives pitching the state’s positives to conference attendees.

“There are other states here, that’s for sure,” Turner noted.

Turner, along with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and other members of Congress, lobbied the administration this spring for an Ohio/Indiana alliance to be chosen as one of the test sites.

“Because of the large aerospace manufacturing sector already present in Ohio and Indiana, the selection of our proposal stands to provide high job gains in the region,” said the letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Representatives manning the booth told PJM that GOP Gov. John Kasich is supportive of the quest to lure drone business. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), though, is a co-sponsor on the Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013 — a bill to provide a legal framework for the use of unmanned systems that some believe could be an industry-killer.

Turner told reporters at the conference today that they’re “on the cusp” of watching the growth of the industry explode.

“This emerging technology is going to make a huge difference,” the congressman said.

Privacy, Turner added, is an “evolutionary issue.”


Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) visits his home state’s booth at AUVSI.

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (8)
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As the Obama family opens up the cookie jar and takes out a few bills to invest in the so-called drone industry, the FAA sure knows better than to place anything in their way.

Drones have open up entirely new ways of killing pain-in-the-ashes around the globe...P-I-T-A's for short.

Obama has had a lot of personal experience with whacking P-I-T-A's all around the Middle-East, and cannot help but want to be investing in the ground floor of an entirely new industry dedicated to removing P-I-T-A' - his, and eventually, those bothering Obama administration czars and czarettes.

Eventually, this is a segment of industry where it may come to pass that even the most low down common peons could afford to save up a few dollars to purchase a cheap drone to dispose of folks that they don't like.

Drones for the common man could become as big a financial boon as microchips and computers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just out of curiosity, what makes these drones any more intrusive than the airplanes and helicopters law enforcement offices are flying now? I'm old enough to remember those painted lines appear across the highways and wonder what they were for. Then I started noticing the signs stating speed limits enforced by aircraft. Today, our County Sheriff has two helicopters that also double as med-evac choppers. We often see them flying over local neighborhoods supporting vehicles on the ground in searches for fleeing suspects or looking for missing persons. I remember when the Sheriff first got one. People were calling it Duff's (the sheriff at the time) Air Force and making fun of it. They were also making the same comments about them that I am now hearing about the drones.

I don't see a problem with the larger drones being used for traffic and such much as the helicopters are used now. The drones I do have a problem with are the tiny ones, not much larger than an insect that are nothing more than a flying spy-cam. Those are the ones that must be watched and regulated the most.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"State Sen. Tony Grindberg (R), an aerospace business manager, came to D.C. to support the effort, saying “education” will shape people’s opinions of unmanned technology as development and test sites come into shape."

Meaning, "We'll mount a PR campaign about the benefits, marginalize the opponents as whackos, and pretty much brainwash the mindless populace to trade even more liberty for some shiny trinkets. And the fools will fall for it."

And he's right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yep, just like they did with those infernal 'horseless carriages'.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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