In the current economy, when any industry comes under negative public scrutiny, one surefire reaction from proponents is to promise it will create new jobs. Apparently to counter growing negative publicity over the increase use of drones, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has done exactly that, releasing a study – one it commissioned and the industry paid for — indicating the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System could create 70,000 new jobs within the next five years. Most of the jobs would be in the agricultural application of drones — including aerial mapping of crops and spraying insecticides.
The timetable for “full integration” of drones by the end of September 2015 was laid out in legislation surrounding the FAA funding package enacted last year. But the timetable is already way behind schedule. Since the mandate to integrate drones was quietly added to the FAA funding legislation last year, public outcry over privacy issues related to drones has become a sharpening thorn in the side of UAS proponents. Safety concerns among pilots have also been piqued by the prospect of large numbers of unmanned aircraft sharing their airspace.
There is powerful economic impetus behind the move to expand the drone industry. With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down, UAS manufacturers of military drones have turned their attention to transferring their economics to civilian drones. AUVSI says the industry will generate $82 billion by 2025, and could add another 30,000 jobs in that time frame for a total of 100,000 over 12 years.
The AUVSI commissioned Darryl Jenkins, “a past professor at George Washington University and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University,” to author the study. He laid down ominous words for state and local municipalities that challenge the drone industry, implying they could be left off the drone gravy train. “While we project more than 100,000 new jobs by 2025, states that create favorable regulatory and business environments for the industry and the technology will likely siphon jobs away from states that do not,” said Jenkins.