UAV trickle-down expected to ripple across industries
If you can’t see the business opportunities as Nevada’s unmanned aerial vehicle industry lifts off, talk to Lori Carpenter.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, this is the area to be in,” says Carpenter, a hydrologist and president of 7Q10 Inc., an environmental engineering firm in Reno that works with federal, state and local governments, geothermal companies, land developers and others.
Carpenter rattles off a list of industries that could benefit from use of commercial UAVs, from farmers weeding out crop fungus to loggers narrowing down diseased trees in a forest to roofers looking for rooftops in need of repair or replacement.
“A colleague did a survey for mining claims and used a helicopter to take images. They’ll stake claims based on that survey and it cost $300,000 to $500,000 to do,” says Carpenter. “With a UAV, the survey would cost half that.”
That’s why Carpenter wants to invest in UAVs for her business.
“I plan to own a fleet of them and use them for environmental monitoring,” she says.
Carpenter has already put her money where her mouth is. She is going through UAV training at Unmanned Vehicle University, known as UXV, in Phoenix, and becoming a certified pilot. She plans to join the Civil Air Patrol to meet her flying requirements for manned aircraft.
Then Carpenter plans to start collecting her fleet of UAVs, buying them as she needs them.
Her training is costing about $30,000 and she figures she’ll need to invest a total of about $300,000, including equipment, to start using UAVs for imaging of wetlands, mineral resources, wildlife habitats and other environmental projects.
“But I’ll make that back in the first year,” says Carpenter.
And it will be money well-spent, she figures.
“GIS (geographic information system) and GPS (global positioning system) changed the entire industry overnight,” she says. “UAVs will change the industry, too.”
Carpenter is thrilled Nevada was selected as one of six national test sites for commercial UAVs. Testing will facilitate the integration of commercial systems into the airspace, which won’t happen until at least late 2015. But Carpenter was heartened when earlier this month a National Transportation Safety Board Administrative Law judge struck down a Federal Aviation Administration ban on flying commercial UAVs below 400 feet, giving users freedom to fly UAVs for all kinds of applications immediately.
Carpenter hopes others take advantage of the myriad opportunities — from flight schools to repair and maintenance of aircraft — that could take off here.
“The trickle down will be huge,” says Carpenter.
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