Controversial drone program is praised by Fallin for its jobs

January 24, 2013

Gov. Mary Fallin is praising expansion of a program in Oklahoma that will expand the use of drones within the United States.

Fallin is excited about 600 new jobs with the program but critics are warning this is an acceleration of the federal government’s efforts to spy on citizens.

Fallin, along with Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever and Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), revealed information about the integration of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into U.S. airspace.  According to a press release, “Oklahoma stands to capture hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of additional new jobs by 2025.”

The ACLU, a liberal organization, has blasted the use of drones by U.S. law enforcement. Drones have been used extensively overseas, especially by U.S. forces in combat zones.

According to the ACLU, “Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America. Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a ‘surveillance society’ in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government. Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers and tear gas.”

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to change airspace rules to make it much easier for police nationwide to use domestic drones, but the law does not include badly needed privacy protections, says the ACLU.

The ACLU recommends drones only be used with a warrant, the only images that are evidence in an ongoing investigation be saved, that drones be approved by elected officials – not law enforcement, that domestic drones should be open to audits and that drones that fly over the United States not be equipped with weapons (lethal or not).

“UAS represents one of the fastest-growing segments of the aerospace industry, which already is an important part of the Oklahoma economy,” Fallin said. “We are taking the steps necessary to create an environment conducive to job creation and investment that also positions Oklahoma as a national leader in the advancement of UAS technology. We’re excited the data from AUVSI’s economic impact report show.”

The study found:

• Based on the current UAS activity in Oklahoma, the state is projected to create 593 new jobs in the first three years – from 2015 to 2017 – following the integration of UAS into the U.S. airspace.

• Over those same three years – from 2015 to 2017 – the total economic impact to the state is projected to be $57.6 million. Economic impact includes the monies that flow to manufacturers and suppliers from the sale of new products as well as the taxes and monies that flow into communities and support the local businesses.

• The study projects there will be 105,685 new jobs nationally by 2025 as a result of the integration, and many of these jobs are portable. They aren’t committed or tied to any particular state.

•  Future events – such as the establishment of test sites and the adoption of UAS technology by end users – will ultimately determine where many of these new jobs flow from 2017 to 2025.