Indiana makes push for drone testing

There is a growing movement across the United States against remote controlled, flying cameras called drones.

There is a growing movement across the United States against remote controlled, flying cameras called drones.

Police departments and the US military use them. Thirteen states are looking at possible restrictions or even bans of what many consider intrusive aircraft. Those include Illinois, Washington, Virginia, Montana, California, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, Maine and Oklahoma.

Illinois may require police to get a search warrant before using a drone to gather evidence.

But Indiana is trying to convince the military to tests its drones in our skies.

Drones could bring hundreds if not thousands of jobs to Indiana, and many of those states which are exploring laws to regulate drones are also competing with Indiana for the possible jobs they may generate.

When we think of drones, we normally think only of the military application. But the sky is truly the limit. They are used in agriculture, weather or by law enforcement. A drone was used in Monroe County over a year ago during the search for Lauren Spierer.

Now the state has partnered with the neighboring state of Ohio to compete to be named one of the FAA's six drone test sites. Indiana offers Camp Atterbury and the Jefferson Proving Grounds. Ohio has Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

So why is Indiana throwing its hat into this ring? The answers are obvious. Jobs and money. Over six billion dollars has been invested in drones this year worldwide. That number is expected to grow to $80 billion in the next twenty years.

Indiana saw the possibilities for military investment years ago and set up the Indiana National Center for Complex Operations. Matt Konkler serves as its Executive Director.

"The opportunity right now is unmanned systems - both unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, robots in some cases," said Konkler.

Funded by IEDC, the NCCO's assignment is to market the state's national security opportunities.

"In ten years, from 2001 to 2010, the industrial base in the state brought in $40 billion. Now that was during the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan but this would almost double that in less than ten years," Konkler observed.

Suprisingly, drones are already being employed to sell houses in Valparaiso and real estate around the country to show off properties from the air.

Indiana State University is also positioning itself for the future by teaching its students how to operate drones.

Jeff Hauser was hired by Indiana State as its Director of Unmanned Systems.

"We are not trying to get into the area of spying on people or anything like that and give the drone the negative connotation. My background is in military intelligence and that's why I am so excited to come here. I want to get into the civilian applications because there's going to be so many of them that we haven't even thought of yet," said Hauser.

The potential growth has caught the eye of Indiana lawmakers who are exploring the possibility of setting up a summer study committee to better understand the potential.

State Senator Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) is out front on this issue.

"We want to make sure that we have something in place to check that we protect the citizens privacy and their safety," he said.

The potential for jobs and related industry growth has hopes soaring that the FAA will pick the Hoosier State.

The FAA says it will make its decision on the six drone test sites by the end of this year.