The drone industry’s major professional association, AUVSI, is thinking hard about what a non-military U.S. market for drones looks like. Its theory: farms will buy more robots than cops will.
When the flying robots that loiter in Afghanistan’s and Yemen’s airspace come home, they won’t just be headed for the local police station. They might prefer a pastoral existence of spraying crops, scanning soil patterns and other features of America’s farms.
No, Predators and Reapers aren’t going to scan large swaths of vegetation for suspected militants. And there’s tremendous interest from state and local law enforcement in drones as surveillance tools. But to Chris Mailey, a vice president with the drone promotion organization known as AUVSI, the cop shops represent short money. “Agriculture,” Mailey tells Danger Room, “is gonna be the big market.”
To Mailey, it’s a question of where the growth opportunities are. Military drone purchases are plateauing, even as the drones become increasingly central to U.S. counterterrorism. And there are limits, financial and otherwise, to the ability of police departments to purchase drones. Farming looks like a drone market with both fewer impediments and bigger incentives for early technological adoption.