The Federal Aviation Administration made a major step toward introducing drones to the lives of American citizens. By approving a new drone, commonly referred to as the RMAX, the FAA has further advanced the future of several different industries and career fields, such as agriculture, delivery, journalism, disaster relief and manufacturing.
While the popularity of these drones grows, so does the need to build and maintain them as well as look beyond to the next, more efficient generation, following a trend laid down by previous technology. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates he drone industry could raise $13.6 billion in the first three years post-approval, and climb to $82.1 billion by 2025. It also predicts an addition of 103,000 jobs, all paying a minimum of $40,000 for manufacturers, according to CNBC.
Of course, this is all dependent on drones potentially being approved for commercial use and sale, although an AP poll revealed only 21 percent of those who participated approved of commercial drone use, while 35 percent were undecided and 43 percent were against, as of December 2014.
However, with time, the FAA appears to be getting closer to raising that public approval rating with every turn. It has even announced that it will begin testing the commercial use of drones, including over cities and urban areas where air traffic is believed to be at it's highest.
"Integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace is a big job, but it's one the FAA is determined to get right." said agency administrator Michael Huerta at the Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta, according to USA Today.
The RMAX is the first drone to be approved that's large enough to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides over farmers' crops. Weighing a total of 207 pounds, the RMAX is much larger than the drones that have already been used in the agriculture industry up to this point. Currently, drones are used by farmers to take pictures of their crops and point out those that could be deemed as unhealthy.
The large drone has already been used in Japan to help rice farmers maintain their crops, according to Manufacturing.net.
Ken Giles, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis, told the AP that the drone is best suited for precision spraying on crops that are otherwise hard to reach from the ground or larger, piloted planes, such as California's rolling vineyards.
"A vehicle like this gives you a way to get in and get out and get that treatment done," said Giles.
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, up to 80 percent of drone usage could be in the agriculture industry if fully approved by the FAA.
A common potential use for drones is package delivery. Showing that it's on board with at least looking into drones as an option, the United States Postal Service has narrowed down its list of contracts seeking to provide the next generation of delivery trucks. One of those options is the Workhorse Group and their Horsefly technology, according to USA Today.
Workhorse proposed a new set of delivery trucks that will be electric and act as hubs for the Horsefly drones, which will land on top of the trucks and be able to make deliveries as far as 35 miles out.
"We feel very confident that our integrated drone technology on top of our electric truck is the best solution for the Postal Service, as well as giving them the lowest total cost of ownership," said Duane Hughes, Workhorse Group's sales director, to Federal Times.
USPS officials say hey hope to make a final decision by January 2017.
Helping in disaster relief
The American Red Cross has recently gotten on board with the use of drones and even called their inclusion into disaster relief one of the most promising aspects of technology moving forward, according to the Washington Post. After conducting a study to learn more about the potential of drones, the American Red Cross feels that, once approved, drones could be a major help by providing aerial views of disaster areas to help find survivors and quantify damage.
Among their list of recent approvals, the FAA also approved a company called ArrowData to use its drones for electronic news gathering, also being billed as "aero journalism."
"Helping news stations of all sizes with the ability to have aerial video is a game changer. This is a tool that stations in all markets will use to better inform the public and we're proud to be leading the way in this new industry," said James Fleitz, VP of ArrowData, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The last remaining obstacle that appears to stand in ArrowData's way now is approval for their drones to be used commercially.
"The FAA is taking an important step forward to helping more industries in the U.S. realize the benefits (drone) technology has to offer," Bryan Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said in a statement.