EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

December 31, 2013

Role for Mass. as FAA picks drone-research sites


While the advent of drones brings with it privacy concerns, Congress has required the FAA to develop rules to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system by 2015, according to MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, which cites potential civil and commercial uses such as agriculture, disaster relief, environmental research and pipeline surveillance.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos this month told 60 Minutes about his company’s plans to someday deploy drones as part of its distribution network, and there are myriad commercial and recreational possibilities for drones.

Griffiss, which is in Rome, N.Y., plans to work on developing test and evaluation and verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight, to focus research on “sense and avoid capabilities” for unmanned aircraft systems, and to “aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace,” according to the FAA.

MassDevelopment on Monday cited the potential for 70,000 new jobs nationwide in the unmanned aircraft system industry by 2017 and 100,000 by 2025. The industry’s economic impact in the U.S. could reach $82 billion by 2025, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, and Massachusetts can expect an increase of 985 jobs, an economic impact of $386 million and tax revenues of $3.8 million between 2015 and 2017. UAS test sites will stimulate job growth, with the association estimating Massachusetts will receive nearly 3 percent of all manufacturing growth tied to the industry.

Along with Sen. Edward Markey, Congressman William Keating, National Guard Adjutant General Scott Rice, and state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the development.

“We are looking forward to the introduction of new firms and the high-tech jobs associated with UAS development here, which is enabled by the new high-speed broadband network proved through Cape Net and the OpenCape backbone,” Northcross said in a statement. “We can also envision a great future with UAS supporting increased efficiency in the fishing industry of the Cape and new ways to support the conservation and protection of marine mammals as they move through Cape waters.”

The reported use of drones in U.S. military operations overseas has drawn criticism from around the world.

In his statement applauding the selection, Markey said Massachusetts “will be well positioned to be a national leader in development of the highest operational standards and strongest privacy protections for drones as they prepare to take flight in U.S. airspace.”

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