Michael Toscano, president and chief executive officer of the unmanned vehicle systems group, said Oklahoma is well-positioned to reap the economic benefits of the expanded use of unmanned aerial systems technology.
“Oklahoma has the infrastructure in place to support the development of UAS technology, as well as several industries — such as agriculture and the oil and gas industry — that could one day benefit from the technology,” he said. “Moving UAS technology forward can improve our quality of life while creating high-quality American jobs, especially right here in Oklahoma.”
His group's study found that Oklahoma is projected to create 593 new jobs in the first three years — from 2015 to 2017 — after drones are integrated into U.S. airspace.
This number includes both direct and indirect manufacturing jobs; it's expected police and fire departments, most of which can't afford traditional aircraft, would buy the mostly battery-operated, computer-driven drones which are cheaper and cost less to operate.
It also states that Oklahoma is poised to add hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of additional new jobs by 2025. It's projected there will be 105,685 new jobs nationally by 2025 as a result of the airspace integration, and many of the jobs aren't committed or tied to any particular state.
The study also states agriculture is expected to be the largest market for unmanned aircraft technology by allowing farmers to more efficiently monitor crops and distribute pesticides, which could help improve efficiency among Oklahoma's 86,000 farms. The oil and gas industry also could use the drones to more efficiently survey pipelines and drilling rigs.
The report was developed by Darryl Jenkins, a past professor at George Washington University and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and an aviation industry economist with more than 30 years of experience.