Peanut farming could be the reason that Georgia becomes a major supplier and operator of commercial small unmanned air systems, says Steve Justice, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace.
The state’s farmers plant $4.4 billion worth of peanuts every year, Justice says. And if operating UAS over peanut fields helps farmers improve yields by even 1%, that additional value can justify the investment it will take to make the precision agriculture market thrive in Georgia.
“One percent of $4.4 billion is a huge impact at the state level,” Justice says.
Along with commercial space launches, Georgia has made UAS one of two focus areas as it seeks to expand its rapidly growing aerospace industrial base.
Georgia already has one of the most advanced aviation industries in the southeast of the USA. An industry led by Lockheed Martin airlifter manaufacturing in Marietta, Gulfstream business jet assembly in Savannah and Delta TechOps in Atlanta produced exports worth $8.5 billion in 2014, or 75% higher than in 2009.
Hosting AUVSI in Atlanta is the latest opportunity for Georgia to showcase its rising UAS industry. Last October, state officials received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned air vehicles at the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.
“The FAA told us it was the first time it approved and allowed flights of UAS in that kind of environment where we had lots of people – 30,000 people in the area – active manned aircraft flights in the area, and then we had unmanned aircraft flying doing research and demonstrations,” Justice says.
Source: Flight Daily News