Forget the debate about the military use of drones (but if you must know, here’s a comprehensive FAQ and a United Nations Report on the issue).
There’s money to be made using those very same unmanned aerial vehicles and systems for commercial purposes. And money is being made by UAS makers and the ancillary businesses that support them in Europe and Australia — but not in the U.S. which will have to play catch-up beginning in late 2015 when the FAA issues rules governing UAS flight in civilian airspace.
Agriculture, forestry, mining, infrastructure and general surveying, topographical modeling and first responders are just some of the groups that will all benefit from the use of UAS.
Swiss startup senseFly has 40 engineers producing 60 drones a month at selling prices ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. That’s $18 million a year for senseFly (which was recently acquired by Parrot SA, the French car electronics and AR.Drone maker).
Airware, an American startup that provides autopilot hardware for UASs, must market outside the US. However, CEO Jonathan Downey says there is plenty of very profitable business outside the United States.
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