Due to recent acts by Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has until 2015 to integrate drones into the national airspace. Although drones (also called unmanned remote sensing technology) are best known for their violent role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they also have incredible potential for good; scientists are chomping at the bit to utilize them as research gathering tools.
Could an OSU Unmanned Vehicle System Research Consortium become a real thing? OSU’s vice president of research, Rick Spinrad, thinks so, citing the university’s decades-long role as a national leader in remote sensing research and technology. Assistant Professor of forest engineering, Michael Wing, notes that Oregon’s varied topology and climate offer a veritable playground for drone experiments.
Working with the Oregon Innovation Council, and partnering with government and private business, OSU plans to support the development of remote sensing devices and be on the cutting edge of this new technology. If the FAA-sponsored Consortium becomes a reality, Corvallis can expect an influx of commercial and academic interest. No matter what, OSU is positioning itself at the forefront of a multi-million dollar industry that, thanks to Congress’s new regulation, promises to grow by leaps and bounds in the next decade.
There’s no denying the powerful research applications of drones, but the idea of robots (especially those equipped with video recorders) skimming around in our sky can be unnerving. Still think it will never happen? It already has. Last autumn, MacDonald-Dunn forest was the subject of OSU’s first FAA-sanctioned drone flight. The future, as they say, is now.
by Mica Habarad