Thursday, December 31, 2015

Many rural areas could benefit from drone boom

Drones are used to check health of strawberry fields in Florida.
(Photo by Jay Conner, Tampa Tribune, via New York Times)
Many rural areas could benefit economically from the boom in drones, not just North Dakota, the focus of a New York Times story and Rural Blog item earlier this week. "It is just one of several rural areas where there is concerted activity in commercial drones," or "unmanned aircraft systems," the name federal officials use, writes Times reporter Quentin Hardy, who did the North Dakota story.

"Far from Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs are working on drone applications for agriculture, energy, rail and other industries largely in less populated parts of the country," Hardy reports. "It makes sense: There is more need for drones in rural areas, and there are fewer costly things that a drone might crash into. The military operations involved with many of these endeavors are also in rural areas."

Anthony Albanese, president of Gryphon Sensors LLC, which makes drone sensing gear, told Hardy, “We envision building out in rural environments where you can build a safety case” for air-traffic control of unmanned vehicles. “Eventually it will be urban – you can envison delivery centers on top of buildings in cities.” But the proving ground will be rural.

"One thing all the rural experimentation sites share seems to be contacts from the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook, all of which have big drone programs," Hardy reports. "Away from the government facilities, there is lots more experimentation in rural areas, from flying firefighting robots in Reno, Nev., to teams of drone pilots for work and play in Iowa, and a British company called BioCarbon Engineering that hopes to plant 1 billion trees a year in deforested areas by using drones."  (Read more)

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