Friday July 12, 2013 0 commentsUnmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have played a big role in the ongoing war on terror, killing fanatical terrorist leaders hiding in the most remote regions of the world where U.S. soldiers would surely be exposed to death and injury if they had to go in and kill or capture those leaders.
But collateral damage from UAV drone strikes - i.e., the women, children and other noncombatants who are unintentionally killed or wounded - has raised questions about exactly when and how weaponized UAVs should be used.
But UAV technology has far more potential uses than taking out terrorists in faraway lands.
Think about it: Camera-equipped UAVs could be used to help spot incipient forest fires, locate lost hikers, monitor livestock and crops, patrol roadways for reckless drivers, breakdowns or accidents, monitor far-flung oil-and-gas operations, assist land mapping - the list of current and potential peaceful uses is long and getting longer as UAV technology improves.
Relatively inexpensive, UAV drones can take the place of much more costly helicopter and airplane surveillance operations in many instances.
Colorado is poised to be in the forefront of drone development, having the nation's second-largest aerospace industry behind California. And the state recently made a pitch to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be one of six UAS (unmanned aviation systems) test sites in the U.S.
CU-Boulder has taken the lead on behalf of Colorado to lobby for a test site, in part because it has one of the most comprehensive UAS science programs in the country.
CU's UAS projects have included monitoring Arctic seal populations, charting sea ice changes near Greenland and enhancing tornado research.
Some worry that UAVs will invade their privacy and result in Big Brother Government constantly buzzing over their heads.
But Denver city councilman Chris Nevitt, in a recent Denver Post opinion piece, said the state needs to rally behind the effort to land a UAS test site.
"Privacy, airspace regulation, legal issues - these are all important questions to get right," Nevitt said. "But we get them right by tackling them, not by running away.
We strongly agree.
Becoming a UAS test site would help Colorado maintain its aerospace leadership position and bring in quality jobs in an industry whose possibilities are only beginning to be understood.
We urge our readers and leaders to support this effort. A decision by the FAA on the six selected sites is expected in December.