Monday, December 28, 2015

North Dakota wants to be Silicon Valley of drones

NYT photo by Michael Ciaglo
The drone boom could be a boon to North Dakota, "where there is plenty of open space and — unlike in other sparsely populated states — lots of expertise already in place" to improve the technology of unmanned aerial vehicles, Quentin Hardy reports for The New York Times.

"Private-sector drones are where personal computers were in the 1970s: a hobbyist technology waiting to become mainstream. The technology research firm Gartner says that, barring regulatory hurdles, the United States drone business could be worth $7 billion in a decade," Hardy writes. "North Dakota has spent about $34 million fostering the state’s unmanned aerial vehicle business, most notably with a civilian industrial park for drones near Grand Forks Air Force Base. The base, a former Cold War installation, now flies nothing but robot aircraft for the United States military and Customs and Border Protection . . .  to patrol from Seattle to the Great Lakes" and sometimes along the Rio Grande.

“The potential up here is tremendous,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple told Hardy. “It’s not about supporting a company or two; it’s creating the leading edge of an industry.”

Hardy reports, "Rural states with farming, oil and rail lines see many practical reasons to put robots in the sky. Infrared imaging can judge crop health. Cameras can spot leaks and cracks in pipelines. Smaller copters can inspect windmill blades. Livestock can be located easily. . . . If the occasional experimental craft crashes, it is unlikely to hit much beyond dirt. And with money, expertise and need here, people will keep trying."

For a "Field Guide to Civilian Drones," by Nick Wingfield of the Times, click here.

No comments: