Author(s): Raghu Gopal
The New York Times reported on a growing drone industry in North Dakota — one of several rural areas where there's strong activity in commercial drones. The devices have been finding more and more applications, with entrepreneurs working on drones for agriculture, energy, rail and other industries. The sheer number of drone companies at CES 2016 underlines what a boom area this is becoming.
The commercial drone industry is poised for significant growth, and government support is an important factor in making this technology successful. In 2014, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chose six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems, in the states of Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia. Such rural states with farming, oil and rail lines see many practical reasons to put drones in the sky, and commercial applications include infrared imaging to judge crop health and cameras that spot leaks and cracks in pipelines, inspect windmill blades and keep track of livestock.
Rural regions have more room to experiment with the technology, with companies like UK-based BioCarbon Engineering hoping to use drones to plant 1 billion trees per year in deforested areas. Drones are also poised to become a common sight in farming operations thanks to FAA ruling that allows unmanned aerial vehicles to perform duties in agriculture.
Amazon, Boeing, Facebook and Google all acquired drone companies during 2015. On Monday, Intel announced its intentions to buy German firm Ascending Technologies, focused on "professional" drones. It sells unmanned systems packages based on its Falcon 8 model for tasks including surveying, professional photography, and "precision agriculture".
We believe that, despite controversy and increased regulations, the enterprise drone industry is just settling in, and rural areas are proving the perfect playground.
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