Discussing drones is all the rage these days. Talk radio and all points in between complain about using unmanned drones to take out terrorists, and harming civilians in the process. But no matter what you think about our military using drones, there are many uses for the aircraft and local folks want to get in on the action.
Mike Willingham, executive director of Sebring Regional Airport, and Stephen Weeks, executive director of the Industrial Development Authority and the Economic Development Commission, would like to see drone production grow in Highlands County.
This is a unique idea and one that has real merit to pursue. Drone technology is growing and there are many uses beyond military surveillance. Farmers can use it to check crops and traffic engineers can use the technology to study traffic patterns. Drones can also help search for lost people and can stay aloft for hours searching. The uses are endless.
Thereís no reason why Highlands County couldnít become a hotbed for drone production. All it takes is to attract people to do it, and let the infrastructure needed for such production grow. Thatís how places such as Wichita, Kan., became the largest producers of private aviation.
Drone production will ramp up in the coming years. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International states that civilian drones in our airspaces will produce an economic development of $13 billion in the first three years and up to $82.1 between 2015 and 2025.
We like that Highlands County is proactive in pursuing this. Sitting back and watching it happen elsewhere will be of no benefit. Our nice airport setting and empty skies is the perfect place to build and fly these crafts. Letís go for it.