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Big IT vendors mostly mum on commercial drone plans

Bob Brown | Nov. 26, 2014
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the FAA — tasked by Congress with coming up with rules next year — is very likely to require operators of commercial drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned aircraft systems) to have actual licenses that include manned aircraft experience.

But Dombroff says he has not heard of any such companies, aside from Google, active in this space. And he isn't sure what they are waiting for since the queue of those seeking exemptions has grown steadily, especially after a handful of movie making companies were granted permission in September.

"I have a hard time believing they don't have some sort of programs in place," he says, citing the possibilities for data collection and assessment in a business projected to be worth tens of billions of dollars over the course of the next 10 years. He notes that insurance companies aren't necessarily looking at drones as a very near-term opportunity, but rather are eyeing where they want to be positioned in 10 to 15 years. "They see this technology as something that's here to stay and not just a novelty," he says.

Dombroff says if he was working for IT companies he would be looking to get approval to research uses for UASs on their own properties and trying to figure out which industries and organizations to partner with on this front.

It's possible that the big tech companies are biding their time, with plans to snap up drone startups that have become darlings of the venture capital industry in recent years despite regulatory uncertainty. But Dombroff (who blogs here) warns that startups could fall by the wayside once they realize just how regulated an industry aviation is — a realization that should become quite apparent over the next 24 or so months.


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