Brent Klavon: Why we need drones
Published: Monday, December 2, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 2, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.
Whether it is improving agricultural practices or disaster response, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), a.k.a. “drones," are capable of saving time, saving money and most importantly, saving lives.
The emergence of UAS as a resource for a wide variety of public and private applications quite possibly represents one of the most significant advancements to aviation, the scientific community, and public service since the beginning of flight. They create high-quality, well-paying jobs across the country in a variety of fields.
According to a recent study on the Economic Impact of the UAS Integration in the United States, sponsored by Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the economic impact of the integration of unmanned systems into the National Airspace System will total more than $13.6 billion in the first three years.
For Florida alone this study predicts a $632 million economic impact to the state in the years after integration, creating approximately 3,251 jobs, ranking Florida fourth in the nation to achieve the most economic benefit.
Unmanned systems provide farmers with a cost-efficient way to spray for pests and diseases, manage crops and check for signs of drought and blight. These systems can conduct up-close surveillance of farm plots, providing high-resolution data. Terrific work is being done at the Universities of Florida and Central Florida using UAS and ground robots for disease detection.
When disaster strikes, UAS can play invaluable roles in analyzing and mitigating their impact. Natural disasters like hurricanes often present conditions too dangerous to observe with manned vehicles. Manmade disasters such as leaks at a chemical plant may also prove too hazardous for humans, making data collection difficult and slowing the response. Under human control and operated remotely, UAS can enter hazardous areas to collect information, or to map a debris field.
UAS continue to revolutionize how we protect and monitor the global environment. Environmental organizations and governments utilize unmanned systems to monitor forests for illegal logging, protect green space, monitor wildlife and prevent erosion. These systems provide early warning of environmental problems so informed decisions can be made regarding further action.
The incorporation of unmanned systems is a growing trend in science, technology, mathematics and engineering education programs. With more than 150 universities across the nation offering unmanned and robotics programs, hundreds of students are at the forefront of research and technology. These programs are producing graduates with the necessary expertise to seek employment in UAS related industries.
In these economic times all business and governments are looking for ways to cut cost and get more done. Unmanned systems are the tools farmers and firefighters need to do their jobs safer, and more effectively. Privacy absolutely should be respected and protected, while still allowing business to grow and governments to more efficiently use public funds. Small UAS can cut operating costs significantly compared to other existing options, often more safely, in less time and with better results.
Brent Klavon is vice president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Florida Peninsula Chapter.