Public perception of the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into civilian airspace is becoming less negative, according to two recently released public opinion polls.
(The AutoCopter, a portable unmanned helicopter equipped with cameras, designed to provide aerial crop surveillance. Photo, courtesy of PR News/AutoCopter.)
According to polling results released Monday by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), 61 percent of Americans support the commercial use of UAS. The poll showed even greater support for their use in search and rescue operations, homeland security missions and fighting crime.
AUVSI's poll results come following a week at the Paris Air Show where Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) released results a similar poll, with respondents in the U.S. and worldwide, 54 percent of which said they favor increased non-military use of UAS.
The poll results show that public perception of UAS is changing, as these aircraft have long been perceived negatively because of their use for drone strikes by the U.S. and other military units in recent wars. The AIA poll shows that much of that change could be from the widespread lack of knowledge about the commercial use of UAS, as only 25 percent of respondents were "very well aware" that unmanned aircraft are currently being used for aerial surveillance, crop spraying and beer delivery, as they recently were during South Africa's Oppikoppi music festival.
"Unmanned aircraft have the potential to be beneficial in a wide range of applications, from helping to search for lost children and missing hikers to helping homeland security keep our borders safe. This public support shows the importance of safely integrating UAS into the national airspace in a timely manner," said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of AUVSI.
Both AUVSI and AIA have also recently released studies indicating that the integration of UAS into civil airspace has huge economic potential, with AIA predicting the integration would generate $89 billion and create more than 100,000 jobs over the next ten years.
FAA has set 2015 as its targeted date for integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS), although that could be hard to achieve, as the agency has not yet selected its six test sites across the nation that are supposed to serve as test cases for future operational use of UAS in civilian airspace. The agency has said it will make a selection by the end of the year.
Related: Unmanned Systems News