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Utah could become home to new drone testing site

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:40am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is pushing to become the home of one of six drone testing sites across the country.

The exact location of where the testing site would be located it still under wraps, as officials see that information as strategic in their application. The Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) is spearheading this push. In total, 50 organizations from 37 states are vying for one of the six locations.

If Utah gets a drone testing site, it could bring more than 1,000 new jobs to the state, according to a state-by-state study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The study looks at economic impact of the potential project starting in 2015 and going through 2025. Initially, Utah could see about 245 new jobs and by 2025 it could be 1,085.

When we win this it will be like having a fishing license for economic opportunity.

–Marshall Wright, director of business development for GOED

"Taking advanced military technology and using it for various civil and commercial applications, such as emergency relief, is an emerging opportunity," Marshall Wright, director of business development for GOED, said in an interview with Utah Policy. "These applications of UAS have the potential to create a large number of long-lasting, high-paying jobs."

In 2012, a Congressional mandate was passed for the FAA to bring unmanned aircraft into operational airspace, ultimately to develop technology to move the program forward.

While industry experts believe their primary uses would be for public safety, Wright said he hopes that the program will help move from drones to intelligent machines to where Utah's schools and universities can collaborate with businesses in developing robots to perform tasks, according to the Standard Examiner. He also said spin-off technology could include unmanned ground technology.

"When we win this it will be like having a fishing license for economic opportunity," he said.

The FAA is expected to make its decision on testing locations by Dec. 31.

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