The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to establish six drone test sites within the U.S. and Huntsville, Alabama is actively engaged in competing to attract one of those sites to the “Rocket City” area. According to local TV station, WAFF:
Redstone Arsenal is already the hub for development and management of unmanned aerial vehicles for the army, so if you add testing into the mix, it puts Redstone and the Huntsville area on the map for everything behind drones.
And the competition is going to be tough.
Because more jobs come with the testing of drones, Huntsville is not the only city vying for the opportunity. There is already interest from cities in more than 30 states to be one of six testing sites that the FAA will designate.
Drones have, of course, been in the news because the U.S. routinely uses them to to carry out targeted attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, killing thousands, many of whom were innocent. It was recently revealed that the U.S. has built a new drone base in northern Africa presumably to support American operations in Libya, Egypt, and Mali. In terms of domestic use, the White House has been criticized for assuming the power to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil ignoring due process requirements of the Constitution. In this context, the comments of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle regarding the intended purpose of domestic drones seem stunningly naive:
“It looks at the landfill and makes sure it has the right compaction there and uses a sensor to tell you. It may follow a pipeline and makes sure there is no leakage out of that pipeline,” he said. “That’s the kind of technology you are looking at and the commercial applications that you are looking, which means jobs, money to the area. There is really not enough money in watching people.”
Actually, the largest share of the $75B (by 2025) drone market is expected to be in the agriculture industry. Law enforcement is expected to account for $3.2B and “all other applications” (including the environmental uses mentioned by Battle) account for another $3.2B. By Battle’s compass, the militarization of law enforcement and the growing surveillance state are inconsequential to the discussion because that’s not where the big money is.