Over the next 10 years, global sales of drones are expected to exceed $89 billion – the bulk of which will be spent in the U.S – and North Carolina wants a piece of that pie and the jobs that come with it.
That’s the Gospel According to Kyle Snyder. He leads the NextGen Air Transportation program at N.C. State University and his fervor for the bright future of the UAV sector – specifically in North Carolina — is evident. At the recent Aviation Safety Summit at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Snyder raised the challenge to attendees:
“Companies are looking at North Carolina saying, ‘Let’s get here, let’s figure it out here. Because you’ve got the workforce, you’ve got the talent, you’ve got the structures in place in the state. You’ve got the people that can make this happen. You’re the first in flight. You’re the future of flight.’”
But, like the Wright Brothers battle with the gusty winds of Kitty Hawk that preceded their landmark flight, the Tar Heel State faces a few hurdles. Like all states and private businesses, North Carolina is hampered by the FAA’s often unclear policies on drone use. The agency has vowed to set guidelines for commercial and governmental drone use by 2015 but currently commercial use of UAVs is prohibited.
Snyder told conference attendees that Texas-based UAV company Olaeris wants to come to North Carolina to build and market a network of drones that can form the backbone of an emergency-response system for cities across the state. As Business North Carolina writer Ben Bradford points out, the clock is ticking: “In July, Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker, giving the state until Sept. 25 to commit $6 million to the company or face the possibility of it moving elsewhere.”
But there are bright spots on the state’s UAV horizon. At North Carolina State University, engineering students are being challenged to build better drone computing technology.
The stakes are high. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates the burgeoning UAV tech sector may create 1,200 jobs and $600 million in economic benefit for the state by 2025. However, as Bradford points out, that estimate places North Carolina in 27th place — behind Iowa and Mississippi.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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