Understanding the Drone Business In San Diego


drone1They are used by the government, by the military, by the police, by video production companies like Pixel, and by hobbyists. They are drones, also known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), and San Diego is one of the hubs of drone development, design, manufacturing, production and distribution in the U.S. Several hundred (if not more) San Diego workers make their living in some aspect of the drone industry.

Many of the drone-related jobs locally have links to DOD and the military, but there has been a large increase in jobs related to the smaller UAVs being sold to individuals for what are considered hobby purposes. In addition there are a number of businesses involved in services tangentially tied to drones, such as maintenance, customization, programming and repair.

Most San Diego-based UAV companies do not assemble the finished product, but rather manufacture and sell specific pieces of the aerial devices, or are involved in GPS and other computing aspects of the drone’s function. In addition many of the firms provide training for using the drones.drone4

Here is a list of just a portion of the San Diego businesses involved in the drone industry, along with their specialty in the field:

drone2There are a host of other companies that are planning to join the drone industry, but await the publishing of FAA regulations and laws controlling the use and flight of hobby and commercial aerial remote-controlled devices.


Drone Job of the Day


UAV/UAS Technician Needed in sunny San Diego!





Drones careers are taking off.  Drone Report is starting a regular feature of the latest and greatest jobs in Drones across the World.  Stay tuned for more jobs and analysis on the quickly emerging landscape of Drone Careers.

Amazon Is Hiring Software Engineers For Its Drone Delivery Service


From Vice - http://motherboard.vice.com/read/amazon-is-hiring-software-engineers-for-its-drone-delivery-service


Here’s the latest evidence that Amazon’s plan to start delivering using drones is not a joke: The company is hiring software engineerscommunications professionals, and interns to make the project a reality.

There’s usually no point in reading too much into job listings (remember Google Fiber in New York City?), but these ones, flagged by George Anders of Forbes, seem pretty cut and dry. Amazon is hiring at least two “software development engineers for Amazon Air” in San Francisco, a “research scientist intern,” and a communications manager for the program in Seattle.

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Watch A Drone Visit College Football To Give Coaches Better Perspectiv


Via Tech Crunch

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University of Tennessee coach Butch Jones wanted to get an eagle-eye view of his players but apparently didn’t have the resources to spend it on the kinds of expensive, cable-suspended Skycam equipment used by broadcasters. Instead, he sent up a drone, in what appears to be the first – or one of the first — uses of unmanned aerial vehicles in college football.

A Vine (above) showing the coaches warming up the drone for practice immediately started making the rounds on sports blogs. According to Outside magazine, military drone technology was quickly adopted by the entertainment industry, and is becoming more pervasive for aerial footage. “Even at upwards of $5,000 per day, a drone runs a fraction of the cost of a helicopter rental,” explains Joe Spring.

A number of policymakers are proposing moratoriums on low-surveillance drones, until privacy laws can catch up to the quickly evolving technology. But flying cameras are completely legit for sports. Interestingly, Coach Jones credits the experiment to a Google-style mass-innovation approach to management:

“It’s a number of guys. It’s our support staff, it’s [Sports Technology Coordinator] Joe Harrington. It’s everyone just always trying to make the program better each and every day. That’s the culture that we’re building here. It doesn’t matter if it’s our secretaries, our equipment staff, our training staff, or our cooks. How can we make Tennessee football better each and every day?”

8 Totally Cool Uses for Drones


Just a few years ago, drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were virtually unknown.

But the remote-controlled aircraft have stealthily slipped over the horizon and are now causing a buzz from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to the rain forests of Sumatra.

“I am convinced that the domestic use of drones to conduct surveillance and collect other information will have a broad and significant impact on the everyday lives of millions of Americans,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of a Senate Judiciary Committee looking into drone legislation, said on Thursday (March 21), CNN reports.

There’s little doubt that UAV technology is here to stay, but their use isn’t limited to cloak-and-dagger operations and military technology. Here are just a few ways the drone can be your friend:

1. Real Estate Sales

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Daniel Gárate had a lucrative career as a UAV videographer, using his $5,000 drone to capture stirring images of high-end properties for the Los Angeles real-estate market — until the Los Angeles Police Department shut him down, declaring that commercial uses for drones were not allowed, the New York Times reports.

That’s no longer the case, since a federal law signed in 2012 opened drone technology to commercial applications. Gárate, who also uses drones to take videos for commercials, has also been approached to take paparazzi-style photos of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, the Times reports.

2. Sports Photography

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Falkor Systems, a pioneer in the consumer use of UAV technology, has targeted extreme sports photography and video for drone use, focusing on skiing and base-jumping activities.

“The angles people get [while filming] are not quite as intimate as would be possible with an autonomous flying robot,” said Sameer Parekh, Falkor CEO, who envisions a small UAV device that can accompany a downhill skier.

“You just take it out, let it take off and it follows you down the hill. You get back on the ski lift and put it back in your backpack,” Parekh said.

3. Traffic Photography

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There are roughly 4 million miles of highways crisscrossing the United States, but who’s watching them all? Drones, someday.

A project to study the use of drones for inspecting roads and bridges, surveying land with laser mapping and alerting officials to traffic jams and accidents recently received a $75,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Drones could keep workers safer because they won’t be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge,” said Javier Irizarry, director of the CONECTech Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as quoted by LiveScience’s sister site TechNewsDaily. “It would help with physical limitations of the human when doing this kind of work.”

4. Wildlife Photography

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Aerial surveys are an important componet of monitoring the endangered sandhill crane.

Winfried Wisniewski/Corbis

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been testing the Raven A, a small, camera-equipped drone that’s about 3 feet (1 meter) long, to see if it can be used to conduct aerial counts of the endangered sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pulla). [Satellites Gallery: Science From Above]

“We flew the over the cranes when they were roosting, feeding, and loafing to see how they reacted,” said Leanne Hanson, a field biologist, in a USGS report. “They sat still for us when they were roosting and loafing, but birds flushed during feeding. We will plan missions during roosting and loafing times, when their behavior is not affected.”

And critically endangered Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) nest in treetops, making them difficult to study. Drones, however, can easily navigate the primates’ aeries, providing valuable information that will assist in conservation activities, reports PCMag.com.

5. Atmospheric Research

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Ozone in the upper atmosphere plays a critical role in protecting the Earth’s surface from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

To better understand how water vapor and ozone interact, NASA is sending a UAV into the stratosphere — the layer of the atmosphere where protective ozone is found — above the tropics.

The flights are the first of a multiyear campaign to study how changes in water vapor in the stratosphere can affect global climate.

6. Catching Poachers

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Drones have also been used by animal-rights advocates to determine if illegal hunting is taking place.

Mike Watson/moodboard/Corbis

Wild hogs ruining your crops? Get yourself a “Dehogaflier,” a drone devised by engineer Cy Brown of Bunkie, La., which uses a heat-sensing camera to find feral hogs at night. The drone saves time otherwise wasted wandering muddy fields in the dark.

“Now you can know in 15 minutes if it’s worth going out,” Brown told the New York Times.

Drones have also been used by animal-rights advocates to determine if illegal hunting is taking place, even on private property. Drones equipped with video cameras are being used by the League Against Cruel Sports, a British animal-rights group, to spot instances of illegal fox hunting.

7. Disaster Relief

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Hard-to-reach disaster zones could be assessed quickly from the air.

Sanjib Mukherjee/Reuters/Corbis

Drones have a wide range of applications for disaster relief, from entering radiation-filled “hot zones” where human access would be dangerous (after a nuclear accident, for example) to searching for survivors across a debris-filled landscape.

George Barbastathis and others at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop drones to deliver vaccines and medicines to hard-to-reach locations and disaster zones, PCMag.com reports.

8. Environmental Compliance

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Midnight dumping of toxic waste and other surreptitious activities are the bane of environmental law enforcement. But drones may prove to be a cost-effective solution to that problem.

A drone hobbyist in Texas discovered a river of blood flowing into the Trinity River near Dallas. “I was looking at images after the flight that showed a blood-red creek and was thinking, ‘could this really be what I think it is?’” he told sUAS News.

The blood, it turns out, was coming from a meat-packing plant that was discharging into the river. The facility was soon under investigation by Texas environmental authorities.

Get More from LiveScience.

This article originally appeared on LiveScience. Copyright 2013



The Top 10 Leading Voices in Drone Media


1. Matt Wald – NYTimes

Matt is the one of the most prolific writers and commenter’s on drones.  His stories cover all things foreign and domestic, warfare, domestic policing as well as civilian drone technology and industries.

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 3.34.41 PMFrom his bio;

Matthew L. Wald is a reporter at The New York Times, where he has been writing about energy topics for 30 years. Matt has been in the paper’s Washington bureau since 1995, and is currently assigned to write about environment and energy.



Follow him at https://twitter.com/MattWaldNYT

2. Allison Barrie – Fox News

Allison Barrie is a leading military technology policy expert who is a frequent contributor to Fox News.  She writes about drone technology and warfare, in her FoxNews.com video series called War Games.

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 3.20.25 PMFrom her bio;

Her past work on Ministry of Defence-sponsored projects included concentrating on future combat capabilities, soldiers’ combat effectiveness, impact of combat on soldiers’ psychological well-being, the use of reserves and retention issues related to British Army deployments. Her commercial advisory work for Fortune 500 companies includes analysing critical supply-chain vulnerability and resilience in the context of the threat of terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters. While senior research fellow at the Commission on National Security in the Twenty-First Century hosted by IPPR, her work focused on analysis of the terrorism threat, counter-terrorism measures, emergency response and critical national infrastructure resiliency.


Follow her on Twitter here - https://twitter.com/allison_barrie 

3.  Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai – Mashable

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 3.53.21 PMOur prediction for superstar breakout drone reporter of the year, his drone reporting at Mashable is reaching an entirely unrepresented market, the Millennial internet user.  Several tech news sites like Techcrunch, Buzzfeed and Cnet are underrepresented in drone reporting, but Mashable has definitely kept up with its fascinating consumer focused drone reporting.


From his bio;

Lorenzo is a News Editorial Intern at Mashable’s New York headquarters. A recent graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and former intern at Wired.com he’s interested in Internet Freedom, Cybersecurity, privacy surveillance and, more in general, in the intersection between technology and civil rights. Lorenzo is a Law graduate at University of Barcelona and he’s also interested in all kinds of sports (soccer, NBA, NFL, etc.), science, environment and green technology. He’s also a self-defined geek and open-source and free-software enthusiast.


Follow him on Twitter here; https://twitter.com/lorenzoFB 

4. Senator Rand Paul – United States Senator

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Rand Paul is a US Senator (R) from Kentucky, and leading voice on the proliferation of drones.  His recent filibuster on the Senate floor during the confirmation for C.I.A Director John O. Brennan, brought the debate over drones to the national stage.  Senator Paul was was then joined by pundits from across the aisle, democrats, liberals, conservatives and republicans, who all agreed on more oversight for the use of drones domestically.  Consequently, at the recent CPAC Republican convention, Sen. Paul (R) was said to have been the winner coming out of the convention, to the ire of traditional Republicans, of garnering the largest amount of momentum and attention as a possible 2016 Presidential contender.

Follow him on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SenRandPaul

And watch his filibuster here;

5.  Jason Koebler USNEWS

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Jason is a staff writer at US News and World Report, and is a prolific writer on drones.



6. Alex Jones – Infowars

Alex Jones is an outspoken political commentator, and has of late been discussing the rise of Drones.

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From Wikipedia;

Alex Jones is an American radio host, author, and documentary filmmaker.[1] His syndicated news/talk show The Alex Jones Show, based in Austin, Texas, airs via the Genesis Communication Network on over 70 AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations across the United States[2] and on the Internet. His websites include Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.com.[3][4] As of January 2012, his Youtube channel, InfoWars, garnered over 250 million views.

7. Matt Waite – Drone Journalism Lab

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Matt Waite is a professor of practice at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, teaching reporting and digital product development.  Matt started the Drone Journalism Lab to explore the emerging Drone industry, and how it impacts journalism.

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln established the Drone Journalism Lab in November 2011 as part of a broad digital journalism and innovation strategy. Journalism is evolving rapidly, and journalism education must evolve with it, teaching new tools and storytelling strategies while remaining true to the core principles and ethics of journalism. The lab was started by Professor Matt Waite as a way to explore how drones could be used for reporting.

In the lab, students and faculty will build drone platforms, use them in the field and research the ethical, legal and regulatory issues involved in using pilotless aircraft to do journalism.

Journalists are increasingly faced with two problems: a growing appetite for unique online video in an environment of decreased budgets; and restricted or obstructed access to stories ranging from disaster coverage to Occupy Wall Street protests. The technology behind autonomous and remotely piloted vehicles is rapidly moving from military applications to the point where private citizens can own and operate their own drone. At the same time, high definition and 3D video cameras are getting smaller, cheaper and lighter. Paired with global position devices, they make ideal additions to an airborne platform.

In short, drones are an ideal platform for journalism.


Follow Matt here: https://twitter.com/mattwaite

 8. Rosa Brooks

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From her blog: Rosa Brooks is  a columnist for Foreign Policy and a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. In her day job, she’s a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches courses on international law, constitutional law, failed states, atrocity law, and other subjects.

Rosa Brooks is a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation and a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. From April 2009 to July 2011, she served as Counselor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy at the U.S. Department of Defense.

From 2005-2009, Brooks was a weekly op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com. Brooks’s previous positions include Special Counsel to the President at the Open Society Institute, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State, Consultant for Human Rights Watch and Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.


9. John Robb http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/about.html

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John Robb is probably the coolest guy you will ever know.  Successful technology entrepreneur, special operations soldier, author, a real life Tony Stark.  His blog talks about real issues concerning drone technology, from someone who has helped build it.

From his remarkable blog;

Here’s what I am currently thinking about, in a nutshell:

  • The Future of War. Warfare is rapidly evolving. Torrential improvements in technology and globalization have combined to make it possible for small groups of violent individuals to go to war against nation-states and win. In fact, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are actually accelerating the process of development. How effective are these new methods of warfare? Here’s a narrow example. In the summer of 2007, a “defunct” guerrilla group attacked a critical part of a natural gas pipeline in Mexico. This caused a cascade of failure that shut down the just-in-time manufacturing system in the northern part of the country. Network effects turned a $2,000 attack in $2.5 billion in damages. It was so effective, the group did exactly the same thing a month later. Nobody was caught.
  • The Future of Peace. Resilient communities. Our tightly interconnected global system is increasingly prone to large shocks from a variety of man-made and natural causes. These shocks can disrupt flows of energy, food, commerce, and communications to produce widespread wealth destruction (at best) and famine/death (at worst). The best way to mitigate these shocks is to build resiliency at the local level so that communities can enjoy the benefits of globalization without being damaged by its excesses. I am exploring what a community needs to do to be resilient


And follow John on Twitter – @johnrobb

10.  Madea Benjamin – Code Pink

Madea Benjamin is a co-founding member of Code Pink, a SF based women’s rights advocacy group.  She is a fervent outspoken critic of Drone warfare and technology, as well as recently coming out in favor of Rand Paul’s filibuster.  Her new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, is the first comprehensive analysis of one of the fastest growing—and most secretive—fronts in global conflict: the rise of robot warfare.

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From Wikipedia;

Medea Benjamin  is an American political activist, best known for co-founding Code Pink and, along with her husband, activist and author Kevin Danaher, fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange. Benjamin also was a Green Party candidate in 2000 for the United States Senate.

The Los Angeles Times has described her as “one of the high profile leaders” of the peace movement and in 1999, San Francisco Magazine included her on its “power list” of the “60 Players Who Rule the Bay Area.”

Follow Madea on Twitter – https://twitter.com/medeabenjamin

Scientists to drop research drones into hurricanes

MIAMI (AP) — The point where the roiling ocean meets the fury of a hurricane’s winds may hold the key to improving storm intensity forecasts — but it’s nearly impossible for scientists to see.

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Except for a handful of winged drones that can spend hours spiraling in a hurricane’s dark places. The drones will be transmitting data that could help forecasters understand what makes some storms fizzle while others strengthen into monsters.

Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plan to test five or six drones in the peak of hurricane season. The $1.25 million project is among a slew of other NOAA hurricane research funded by last year’s Sandy supplemental bill that authorized $60 billion for disaster relief agencies.

In San Diego, Drone-Makers Are Mysterious Even to Insiders

From the Voice of San Diego

The drone industry has always conjured mystery – covert raids and secretive government entities come to mind.

But in San Diego, the enigma extends to even some simple, mundane facts about the drone industry. Like just how many local companies with ties to drones exist here. Or how much they’re pumping into the local economy.


Monica England, who helps lead a local group trying to rally the drone industry here, estimates more than 50 drone-tied companies have a significant footprint in our region and that at least 40 percent of them didn’t exist two years ago.

But England, who’s affiliated with the San Diego Lindbergh chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, acknowledged there are probably many businesses she doesn’t know about and said she doesn’t have a clear sense of just how much drone-related work some of the ones she is aware of are doing.

Several business executives and leaders also said they couldn’t pinpoint many of those details.

The only solid data that exists is a two-year-old National University study that found military drone companies, mostly General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Northrop Grumman, drew at least $1.3 billion in Department of Defense contracts to the region in 2011.

The industry has shifted significantly since the National University study. Some businesses – including General Atomics and Northrop Grumman – are starting to seesmaller orders from the feds but the buzz about commercial uses for drones has hit an all-time high. Meanwhile, hobbyists are increasingly flying camera-toting drones and businesses across the country have sprouted up to cater to both enthusiasts and potential commercial users.

There are a few reasons why the full picture of the local drone industry remains fuzzy.

Philip Odegard, who owns a drone photography business based in Rancho Bernardo, offers a window into why.

Odegard started his company, fittingly named Aerial, about six months ago. The professional photographer has signed on 12 contract workers to fly drones and collect footage for real estate agents, an Escondido winery and various other customers.

He’s solely relying on word of mouth and social media posts of his company’s work to advertise. He hasn’t contacted local business groups, nor was he aware of the local AUVSI chapter.

Fellow drone business owners say Odegard’s experience isn’t unusual.  Many newer startups are relatively small and aren’t yet plugged into traditional business networking groups. They often get to know others in their industry through hobbyist forums or unscheduled encounters rather than formal gatherings, if at all. This makes it more difficult for conventional business groups to keep tabs on them, or to even learn of their existence.

Indeed, Odegard has focused far more on ensuring his offerings are innovative than on networking – and he’s convinced he must. Odegard previously lived in the Bay area where he befriended tech entrepreneurs and watched many startups quickly dissolve.

He thinks the drone industry is innovating and growing even more rapidly.

“It’s faster than everything I’ve ever seen,” Odegard said. “Every day, there are new people popping up.”

That pace makes the industry even more difficult to follow.

Another challenge is keeping some local drone companies silent.

The FAA essentially banned commercial drone flights in 2007, and though an administrative law judge recently overturned a $10,000 fine levied against an aerial photographer in Virginia, the rules remain murky.

Some drone businesses have decided it’s best to keep quiet until the FAA issues formal regulations.

Gus Calderon, who owns Carlsbad-based IsisCopter and builds airframes for drones, said many customers who plan to use drones for work – and companies that may be interested in eventually using them – aren’t advertising that much.

“Most of them are doing it undercover,” Calderon said. “They don’t want anyone to know what they’re doing.”

Some companies avoid explicitly describing their work on their websites, while others simply rely on friends and customers to spread the word about their services.

These covert business models complicate local boosters’ efforts to tally up the drone industry’s economic impact.

And because the industry is still relatively nascent, there aren’t many specificgovernment classifications for unmanned systems companies, a tool that helps economists study other industries.

The dearth of solid details may have been one of a handful of factors that stymied last year’s failed regional push to become an FAA test site for drones.

Inadequate political support at least contributed to the sunken bid, and though there were many reasons some elected leaders weren’t enthusiastic about it, a scarcity of statistics about the local industry couldn’t have helped.

Advocates couldn’t answer elected leaders’ questions about the total number of jobs tied to San Diego’s drone industry, for example.

Business leaders recently decided they must seek out those numbers so they don’t miss out on other opportunities.

The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. is organizing a survey of drone companies in the San Diego area, and perhaps other parts of Southern California, over the next couple months and plans to produce a study that reveals the industry’s footprint here. It’s likely to be unveiled sometime this fall.

Matt Sanford of the Economic Development Corp., who is helping coordinate the effort, said anecdotes and one-on-one business dealings have persuaded those who follow it closely that it’s prominent here.

He understands that isn’t enough to satisfy most San Diegans.

“We want to be able to back it up with data,” Sanford said.

This is part of our quest digging into the drone industry in San Diego. Check out the previous story – Why Firefighters Aren’t Using Drones to View the Blazes – Yet – and the next in our series – What We Know About San Diego’s Drone Industry.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Chairmen of the Joint Chief’s Says “Don’t Call Them Drones”

General Dempsey—Not Drones, Nor UAS… They’re Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs)

[SatNews] Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey bristles when he hears someone use the word “drone.”

U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“You will never hear me use the word ‘drone,’ and you’ll never hear me use the term ‘unmanned aerial systems,’” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated. “Because they are not. They are remotely piloted aircraft.”

Dempsey spoke to Reuters and American Forces Press Service on his way back to Washington from Brussels and the 171st Chiefs of Defense Meeting at NATO headquarters.

“The American people seem to have the image of robots “flying around semi-autonomously making their own decisions and conducting kinetic strikes without oversight by responsible human beings,” he said. “It’s not like that at all. There are more than 80 people for each remotely piloted vehicle. They operate and maintain the aircraft, and analyze the information gathered. It’s so important for us to remember that there is a man or woman in the loop,” he said.

Whether a service member uses a bayonet or a remotely piloted aircraft with a Hellfire missile, “the ethical application of force applies,” Dempsey emphasized.

The law of armed conflict, the principles of war, U.S. ethics and legal bases apply no matter what the weapon, the chairman reiterated. “So, when we introduce remotely piloted aircraft into a theater in a Title 10 role, we apply the same standards,” he said.

The standards are predicated on the near-certainty of the effect—is the weapon going to do what the operators need it to do? Military personnel always assess the risk of collateral damage on people or buildings. And, “we ensure that we are achieving an effect with the appropriate behavior for the United States of America,” Dempsey said.

Remotely piloted aircraft are “a valid, useful and responsible military instrument in the way we use them,” he said. “So long as we continue to think of them that way and so long as we continue to use them in a transparent … ethical way, then I have no concerns about their use.”

Story by Jim Garamone,
American Forces Press Service

Drones good for business but raise other concerns

Many companies, including Amazon, are experimenting with drones. But there are plenty of questions about privacy and legality when it comes to the technology.

One Clarksville Realtor says drones are bringing in a wave of new business.

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“For people, especially in the military, when they are [ordered a permanent change of station] from another post into Fort Campbell, they, a lot of times, can’t see property in person. So this kind of technology is really appreciated,” Realtor Rob Harris said.

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