Indiana aims to become leader in drone technology

Published: .
Updated: .

Drones could mean jobs and big investment dollars for the state.

Just the word "drone" has already become politically incorrect, so they are now called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs. At base price, they run about $70,000, but you may have to pay a little more for high-definition or infrared cameras. But the technology is so simple, you can operate it from your laptop or notebook.

Eyewitness News reporter Kevin Rader sat on a picnic table outside the Mid-America Science Park watching as Matt Flaget operated his drone.

"There you go Kevin. You are landing a drone. Is that simple or what?" Flaget said.

Anyone who knows about or wants to about drones will be in Scottsburg, Indiana Wednesday and Thursday for the second annual Mid America Defense Conference.

"There will be $13.6 billion spent in this industry and it's not all security-related. You can use unmanned systems in weather forecasting, law enforcement, firefighting and even agriculture," said Matt Konkler, executive director of the National Center for Complex Operations at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

That is why Indiana has thrown in with Ohio in hopes of securing one of six proposed drone testing sight locations. Restricted airspace for testing over Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck, Jefferson proving ground and Crane is a particular plus.

Indiana is hoping Washington will make a decision on drone testing sights by December. That was the original timetable but now that has changed. Now the state is hearing no decision is expected until 2014 at the earliest.

Bruce Dawson is with Drone Systems that operates out of the Purdue Research Park in New Albany. Eyewitness News asked him about the technology as one of their drones was in the air.

"Is this the future?" Rader asked.

"Oh yes and it's here. We are capable of flying now. It's beginning to progress where people are accepting it. Rules are being written on privacy issues," Dawson replied.

So Indiana is trying to position itself as a leader in drone technology. The drones have landed, now the state is hoping money and jobs will follow. Conference attendees include representatives from several universities, including Indiana State and Kansas State. Several states and businesses are represented as well.