Technology journalist Neal Ungerleider quotes UAV lobbyist Michael Toscano's prediction that the integration of commercial drones into American airspace will create 70,000 jobs in the first three years, with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion. Given Oklahoma's historic ties to the aerospace industry and the skills of its workforce in this area, the state is an ideal place for UAV development.
This isn't lost on economic development officials, which include the governor. Rather than associate drones with CIA-style assassination strikes, they see UAVs as a “gold rush waiting to happen” — to put it in Ungerleider's words. A key player will be the Federal Aviation Administration, a major employer in Oklahoma City. The FAA is working on federal policy to integrate UAVs into American airspace. It will fund six domestic test sites for UAVs.
Already involved in testing military uses of drones, Oklahoma would like to be one of those test sites. It should be. We don't see drones as exposing society to a brave new world of relatively cheap spying platforms. We see them as a technological development that the state can either shun with official policy or encourage with official policy. Our policy shouldn't view drones as assassination machines.
Two days before the Ides of March this year, a bill to restrict drones in Oklahoma was pulled, partly due to Fallin's concern that it would jeopardize the state's chances of a becoming an FAA test site for UAVs.
Oklahoma's skies should remain friendly to the UAV industry.