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The Drone (UAV) Market - 70.000 Jobs And $13.6 Billions For The Economy If The FAA Allows It

Updated on February 18, 2015

Commercial UAV

This is a typical commercial UAV or drone used in aerial photography practices.
This is a typical commercial UAV or drone used in aerial photography practices. | Source

The Association for Unmmaned Vehicle Systems International reported in March that the commercial use of drones would create in the United States alone more than $13.6 billion to the economy and 70,000 jobs that go from R&D, manufacturing, commercialization and performing various different services that go from Air Photograph to Data Mining by the year 2018. This is, if the FAA issues regulation on the use of drones or UAVs (Unmmaned Air Vehicles) before 2015, deadline imposed by congress to the FAA. Michigan alone would see $94 million before this deadline thanks to its 600 corporations and 7,000 individuals involved in the manufacture and operation of ground, sea and aerial UAVs.

Aerial Photograph of National Cathedral in Washington

Air Photo of National Cathedral in Wshington D.C.
Air Photo of National Cathedral in Wshington D.C. | Source

The Present for the UAV Industry – UFO, Toy or Working Tool?

Nowadays is not unusual to spot in the air a curious UFO-looking aerial vehicle that keeps its position on the air and can move fluidly like it had a mind of its own. You can see them around construction projects, tourism complexes, or inspecting any big structure. In countries where one of this eight rotor UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicles) is spotted chances are some UFO reports will be made. On the ground they look like a very simple raw mechanical device that makes a lot of noise, like a wasp nest, when taking off. Up a few thousand meters in the air the noise they make cannot be perceived from the ground and the helicopter rotors can no longer be noticed. At night blue and red reflective lights activate on its landing legs and the only thing you see are these two lights moving around with a mind of their own. So yeah, chances are many slow-gadgety people would consider this a valid UFO sighting.

But aren´t all of the civil UAV´s or drone vehicles UFO´s to the eyes of the FAA? In aerial regulation any flight vehicle must be properly identified with its cargo and pilot reported every time. These UAV vehicles have a cargo and a remote pilot. The cargo is usually a video camera which the remote pilot, on the ground with a control, uses to navigate the vehicle. But it can also be a Sony Camera or a photo camera to take aerial pictures. In the past, only a few hobbyists owned and flew a few of these UAV devices. The air space policy towards these hobbiest was that they didn´t represent a threat of any kind and that they were just too few to bother with. They were tolerated and even today you can own a small helicopter, hexacopter, octocopter or any other kind of UAV small vehicle with the consent of the law. The issue surged when UAV´s started to become a profitable business in several industries and now everyone wants one of these.

If the Octocopter has a small video camera onboard so the remote pilot can control it, why not attach to it a photo camera or high quality video camera? This is the first thing many remote control drone owners started to do. They take HD aerial pictures of construction works, real state, make video promos from a short aerial distance and have become Hollywood´s best friends by taking nice and stable video take from the air.

Aerial Video of a Housing Project on the Mountains - Colombia

Aerial Photo of Key Biscayne - Miami

Aerial photograph of Key Biscayne - Miami. This photo was taken for real state promotion, one of top uses of UAV photopraphy in the present.
Aerial photograph of Key Biscayne - Miami. This photo was taken for real state promotion, one of top uses of UAV photopraphy in the present. | Source

UAV Industry In The USA

Should Drones or UAVs be available for commercial use in the United States?

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UAVs and Data Mining From the Air

But aerial pictures and video was just the beginning. In this data age a new industry has sprung up to be one of the worlds most demanded services, Data Mining. Data Mining is the process of capturing enormous amounts of data by different means and processing it for different uses and means. Google was one of the first to Data Mine our world with something called Google Earth.

As most of us know, Google Earth is like a humongous photograph of the earth´s surface which we can navigate from our computers. The way Google did this is by taking satellite photos of the entire earth from different zoom distances. Then the photos as pasted together with software to conform the entire globe in one whole picture. So what does Google Earth have to do with Data Mining and UAV´s? Did you know you can highlight areas on Google Earth to measure its area or pin-point its location? Civil engineers, architects and topographers use this free tool to select a desired area, and then they hire a UAV service and take higher quality pictures of that area and with software perform all kinds of data calculations like:

  • Total area
  • Partitioned area
  • Create a 3D map of the place
  • Terrain altitudes and depressions
  • Inventory of green areas
  • Mapping of every water source etc.

All this information and more can be acquired with one single photograph in a matter of minutes, it is called Photogrammetry. The precision of the data and the amount of information that can be extracted from it is just too good not to use.


A hexacopter from Fly North taking into the air.
A hexacopter from Fly North taking into the air. | Source

Photogrammetry and the UAV

UAV´s come into this game of data mining by taking aerial pictures of a small or medium size terrain and performing higher quality photogrammetry since the devices are closer to the ground and fly below cloud level. While satellite photogrammetry is useful for huge areas, UAV photogrammetry services are better for analyzing structures like buildings, oil towers and small terrains. Besides, a satellite picture can only be taken vertically while an octocopter can go all around it. There are many other reasons why it is far better to use UAVs for photogrammetry services than a Satellite picture.

So data mining is the present and future for many UAV companies in the US. 70.000 jobs and $13.6 billion is not a number you can walk away just because this new technology can be intrusive to some and scary to others. Today you can fly one of this on American soil as long as you follow a few basic rules like not going higher than 3 kilometers above the ground and not flying near airports etc.

Photogrammetry On A Construction Plant With UAV Technology

Photo Camera On UAV

A photo camera can be attached to a commercial UAV to take aerial photograps.
A photo camera can be attached to a commercial UAV to take aerial photograps. | Source

3 Reasons UAVs Need Regulation To Be Used Commercially

For starters there´s this fear towards terrorism that UAVs will be used to carry a small bomb and use it as they please. It would be micro 9/11´s anywhere. But there are other concerns like:

  • Aerial disturbance (they can fly really high for long periods of time)
  • Invasion of privacy (can you imagine a paparazzi with one of this?)
  • What if they fall down on a populated area?

All of these issues can be regulated, like registering and informing to the respective authorities of flights and pilot, issues of permissions to fly on a populated on a certain time and date with due precautions, mandatory revisions before each flight, aerial licenses with due training etc.

Fun and Cheap Quapcopter from Amazon!

3 Reasons UAVs Will Join the USA Industry

  • They can take aerial photos and videos for less than $100 dollars, something to cheap for a large size helicopter or plane.
  • They can create maps of areas in just a couple of minutes with extra data of the terrain like its elevation curves.
  • It provides easy inspections of dangerous structures were a human can take hours to review and endanger his life.

Fly North Group flying UAVs in South America

Village locals are curious about UAVs flying around their village. UAVs are great for landscaping in remote terrains.
Village locals are curious about UAVs flying around their village. UAVs are great for landscaping in remote terrains. | Source

Fly North Group

Fly North is an aerial data mining company that performs air photos, air video and photogrammetry services in Latin America. The company is currently based in Colombia and has performed aerial photo-video services for construction and engineering projects, university campuses, industrial plants and consumer product brands like Oakley. To know more about Fly North visit its webpage and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

.Twitter: @flynorthgroup

Who Is Using UAVs In The USA Right Now?

  • The Michigan Department of Transportation uses UAVs to determine which dirt roads in the state are rife with potholes and ruts, then calculate how much fill would be needed to smooth them over.
  • Fly North Group is a Florida based company that provides aerial services going from aerial photographs to photogrammetry studies on a terrain. They operate all over Central and South America working with big construction companies and small business owners.
  • The Georgia State Patrol has in the past expressed its interest in acquiring several UAV vehicles for surveillance purposes.
  • In August of 2013 a major energy company is set to use UAVs to survey the Alaskan coast for ice and whales while it performs oil explorations. UAVS can also be used to control oil spills.

The fact is UAV´s are here to stay because they represent the next step on the technology revolution. We will become accustomed to them, to their benefits and their issues as we have with any other technical device that infiltrates into our modern lives. The FAA seems to have every intention of legalizing its commercial use by the end of 2013, as expressed by one of its spokesmen, named Les Door, to an interview by


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    • David Trujillo profile imageAUTHOR

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      3 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      I do not think that is avoidable. And governments only spy if they have a porpuse to do so. If governments turn against their people instead of proteting them.. then we are in deep snow.

    • David Trujillo profile imageAUTHOR

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      5 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Agreed, but what is your intended use when you mention "above every country and town"?

    • David Trujillo profile imageAUTHOR

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      5 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      But drones as here to help hummanity not to be used as weapons and spying tools. They will be our data mining instruments to make accurate decisions about many things. They will place us one step ahead in the future, just like aerospace flights did back in the days.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      5 years ago from London UK

      I think in this day and age, drones are vital and should be located above every single country and town in the world and as a commenter said, make sure they are all regulated.

    • David Trujillo profile imageAUTHOR

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      5 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Hi Joe, nice to hear from you again. I guess the government will only spy on you if there is a motive for them to do so. Drones will be part of our lives from here on no matter if they seem threatening or not. The question is, how to make the best of it and how to counter its dangers.

    • David Trujillo profile imageAUTHOR

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      5 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      The company I mention here is actually my brother´s startup. The advantages of using drones to perform aerial photography to photogrammetry are enormous and various industries enjoy its advantages. Can your next door neighbor use them to spy your backyard? Will the government use it to keep an eye on you? Will terrorists attach bombs to them and program them to attack potential targets? The answer to all these questions is YES, all these terrible things will happen.

      But it is inevitable. In the present I believe there are more than 10,000 drones on the hands of civilians all around the US and that number is going to triple in the next 3 years. So there is really no point in making its use illegal. Its like any other breaking technology, its intrusive. Just like Facebook. The best we can do is regulate it the best way possible just like guns are and accept drones as part of a new everyday future.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      David, I agree with you that drones can be really beneficial to our economy. However, my major concern is that the government will use drones to spy on civilians. And how are we then to know the difference?

      Thanks for sharing, my friend! Aloha, and have a great weekend!



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