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Introduction

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), colloquially known as drones, have attracted criticism given their role in military operations. However, there is a burgeoning market for commercial applications, with the US government asking the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to draft plans for civilian airspace integration by 2015, as required by the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

Features and benefits

* Analysis of the military evolution of UAVs, and how their deployment could both represent an economic boon and constraint.
* Consideration of how UAVs could be applied in commercial functions such as agriculture and the benefits of their integration.
* Evaluation of the current stage of UAV technology and whether they are currently capable of revolutionizing their fields.

Highlights

Although the technology has attracted attention in recent years since the US military deployed drones in precision strikes, the technology is far from in its infancy. As of 2014, more than 70 countries have acquired UAVs for both commercial and military purposes, and over 50 are seeking to manufacture them.
UAVs have been utilized for agricultural purposes in Japan since the 1990s. Although there is limited regulation currently in place, drones could spread globally to emulate their role in agriculture. They could also be useful in public safety and security. Elsewhere, larger tech companies are seeking to harness the power of the technology.
While UAVs are readily available based on current technologies, they still lack crucial developments which would allow them to fly effectively independently. Regulation is also crucial to ensure effectiveness. Finally, governments are concerned about the political issues raised; privacy and potential for conversion to armaments.

Your key questions answered

* What are drones?
* How has the use of UAVs benefited the US Armed Forces?
* How can UAVs be used in the commercial sector?
* What are the pitfalls of UAV integration?

Table Of Contents

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: The economic case for drones
OVERVIEW
Catalyst
Summary
UAVS IN THE MILITARY
What is a UAV?
Different types of UAVs
US military interest brought drones to the public eye
Other militaries have since acquired UCAVs, with defense companies taking heed
The benefits of UACVs
UAV industry still fragmented
UAVs thriving outside of US
The drawbacks of UAV/UCAVs
Ethical implications constitute negative externalities of the technology
US reduces spending on drones
Future military drone technology
UAVS IN THE COMMERCIAL SECTOR
UAVs: applications and potential economic impact
Stability of supply
UAVs and agriculture
Japan demonstrates UAVs' capabilities in agriculture
Transferring agricultural UAVs to the US
UAVs' evolving role
UAVs and public safety
Tech acquisitions in UAVs
How drones could be beneficial
Google: Project Loon and the Titan acquisition
Facebook and Ascenta
Amazon: Logistics drones?
Other logistics drones: Tacocopters and Relay Stations
BP wins first commercial license
THE COSTS AND LIMITATIONS OF UAVS
Technological constraints hamper short term potential
Regulation proposals could be late or not conducive
Regulatory delay could cost $10bn annually
Will there be a need for a UAV Licensing system?
Skills gap may hamper economic impact
The political cost of UAVs
Public mistrust will inhibit adoption rates
Cultural factors may limit economic impact
Surveillance concerns
Could UAVs be weaponized?
Will UAVs be safe from interception?
CONCLUSIONS
UAVs have transformative potential when perfected
APPENDIX
Definitions
Sources
Further Reading
Ask the analyst
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