Drone R&D pops up in the unlikeliest of places

Aberporth is a Welsh city whose name doesn't come up terribly often in the tech press. That might change as a small civilian-owned airport transforms itself into a center for UAV (read: Drone) innovation.

When the airport transferred from military to private hands in 2001, the site was crippled by restrictions stemming from a nearby bombing range. Regulation stemming from the government, and understandable trepidation at flying a private aircraft near a military training site combined to render the airport moot for general use. Roy Mann, the businessman that purchased the airfield from the government, looked to have made a bad investment.

As it turns out, unmanned aircraft are not subject to the same rules as civilian and/or passenger craft. This was a revelation for Mann. He worked to modify the airfield for UAV use, and started hunting customers. Today, he has many and the airfield is at the cutting edge of research and development for both military and civilian-sector drone use. The Welsh government is promoting the airfield because of the jobs it is bringing to the area.

While it's true that many of today's UAVs are used in military capacity, their future is in civilian use. The dynamism of drones will propel them into industries far beyond surveillance and killing. Drones look to be cheap alternatives to helicopters, potentially requiring less maintenance and certainly less pilots.

Via The Economist

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