JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Unmanned technology groups are hoping to expand the use of drones to more than the military.
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum Tuesday to talk about a program that would use the technology for things like storm relief and farming.
While Americans are talking about Amazon's plans to use self-guided drones to deliver packages, most future unmanned aircraft may operate far from the nation's large population centers.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw said agriculture is one of the most promising commercial markets for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and vast rural areas, where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern.
"This is a whole brand new area," Crenshaw said. "Unmanned systems, I think, are the future of our country."
Experts say farmers can use drones to protect crop health and observe overall farm performance. The main benefit of a machine doing the work would be time saving.
What about the farmers who could potentially lose jobs if a drone could be used instead?
"Well, I think anytime you have technological advances, then you're going to have to remake the way we do business," Crenshaw said.
Joe Brannan, retired Navy, said unmanned technology could also potentially be used in times of emergency.
"When there's a disaster and you can't get something else in, and you can go in and look at all the stuff there and figure out where you need to concentrate your efforts, down power lines, whatever," Brannan said.
The unmanned technology sector is anticipated to become an $89 billion market in the next decade, but failure to implement public policies could limit the unmanned aircraft systems sector. One of the biggest issues people may have with it is privacy.
"What we need to do with the laws are make sure they're designed to go along with our already Fourth Amendment rights," Brannan said. "The Fourth Amendment rights already give us privacy rights."
In May, there will be an Unmanned Systems Expo in Orlando, where advocates will continue to get the word out about the potential widespread use of this kind of technology and its benefits.
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