Promise of jobs triggers scramble for civilian drones

The promise of tens of thousands of jobs has U.S. states jockeying to become hosts for testing before drones are introduced alongside civil aviation in U.S. airspace.

A vast network of unmanned aircraft manufacturers, marketeers and promoters that descended on Washington for a conference pressed home a point made in a March report: Growth in civilian drones can create up to 100,000 jobs nationwide.

States that encourage drone testing on their soil stand to gain more jobs than states that remain skeptical about the new technology, drone promoters say. As excitement over drone-related job prospects grows, the industry has gone to great lengths to separate — in public consciousness — civilian craft from the military types that provoked controversy, debate and protests.

Protesters from the Code Pink anti-war group used pink mock-drones to protest outside the venue of a mid-August conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. AUVSI is rated the largest lobby group supporting promotion of unmanned aircraft, which it insists shouldn’t be called drones.

AUVSI’s annual gathering at the Washington Convention Center brought together about 8,000 participants from 40 different countries. Most delegates said they were focused on generating new business from unmanned technology systems, promoting diverse use on farms, firefighting and law enforcement, security and surveillance.

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