That’s partially because I’m peppering him with questions about civilian drone applications, but our conversation was bound to wander in this direction. The DoD certainly isn’t going anywhere, but defense spending cuts hang over this place like the sword of Damocles. The term for next year’s mandated defense spending cuts, “sequestration,” can be overheard around the exhibit hall here at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual North American trade show like some kind of new and derogatory slang.
But even as Congress prepares to twist the Pentagon’s money spigot down to a trickle, it tossed the unmanned systems industry a bone earlier this year by mandating that the Federal Aviation Administration integrate unmanned aircraft--first small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but eventually larger ones as well--into the domestic airspace by 2015. First responders can already obtain clearance to operate small drones. And as a result, the tenor of the whole conversation here has shifted