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Commercial Applications for Unmanned Systems Takeoff at AUVSI 2013


KippsDeSanto attended the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (“AUVSI”) conference in Washington, D.C., which featured approximately 600 exhibitors and 8,000 representatives from more than 40 countries.  A key topic of interest was growing commercial uses for unmanned systems and specifically the impact of FAA work around unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”).

In July, the FAA certified the first two UAVs for commercial operations in U.S. airspace, Insitu’s ScanEagle and AeroVironment’s PUMA, and is currently in the process of choosing six locations to serve as UAV test sites.  In response to the new opportunities these UAV test sites present, many states are taking proactive steps to capitalize, including North Dakota and Oklahoma.  North Dakota is creating a UAV business hub adjacent to Grand Forks Air Force Base, with Northrop Grumman already agreeing to be a key tenant of the facility.  Proponents for a location in Oklahoma estimate an FAA testing site in the state could bring 2,000 new jobs, $200 million in annual income, and $20 million in annual taxes.

Commercial usage of unmanned systems is the latest in a long line of technologies advanced by the military that have found civilian application.  Industry research groups are forecasting annual UAV spending will double in the next decade to more than $10 billion per year, and firms such as Boeing, AeroVironment, Textron, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Atomics are poised to benefit from the deployment of unmanned systems for commercial use.  With attractive avenues for growth, unmanned systems will continue to be an area of M&A focus, as companies seek to position themselves in a dynamic industry with an increasing number of applications.

Contributor:  Kenneth Morris

Source:  AUVSI and industry research