Florida vies for new slogan: Drone capital of the United States
Wake up and good morning. My first unexpected face-to-face experience with drones -- unmanned planes or helicopters that can be controlled from the ground -- happened years ago when one flew several feet over my car as it landed at adjacent Fort Huachuca in southernmost Arizona. Presumably it was helping to monitor the border with Mexico. (Photo above: AP.)
Now comes a flurry of stories suggesting Florida is well on its way to becoming one of the capitals (if not the capital) for drone development in the country. Consider these recent reports:
Dozens of Central Florida researchers "hope to play key roles in creating next-generation drone technology," this Orlando Sentinel story says. Prominent among them are the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Lockheed Martin's Orlando operations are crafting systems for some of the best known drones in the U.S. arsenal, another Sentinel story reports.
The board of Space Florida wants Florida to be designated one of six test ranges across the country to be named by the Federal Aviation Administration, says a USA Today story headlined Florida hopes to fill its skies with unmanned aircraft. At the University of Florida, the story reports, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Group has spent 12 years and more than $1 million in grants developing the 11-pound, 9-foot wingspan Nova. It's not just for the military but for monitoring remote habitats and animal populations.
Even a trade group called the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has been created to deal with growing negative perceptions that drones reflect the latest trend toward Big Brother tactics. "We understand as an industry that we've got a public relations problem," says Paul McDuffie, a director for the association who happens to work for for a company called Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Co., in Port Orange, Fla. (Photo, right, courtesy of Insitu.) Read more in this July 2 AP story.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times