U.S. aerospace companies seek to reassure public on drones

Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:15pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. aerospace companies, keen to benefit from billions of dollars in possible future orders for civilian drones, are mobilizing to assuage public concerns about privacy and safety.

The Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. industry's biggest lobbying group, released a new poll on Wednesday at the Paris Airshow, which showed that 54 percent of Americans favor use of drones for civilian purposes, including border patrol, weather prediction and disaster response.

Marion Blakey, former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and AIA's chief executive, said she was heartened by the poll, conducted by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, but her industry needed to do a better job dispelling misperceptions about drones.

"We feel like there's been too much rhetoric about privacy concerns and things that aren't relevant to domestic use of unmanned aerial systems," Blakey told Reuters. "Nobody's talking about using militarized drones in U.S. civil airspace."

The U.S. government has used unmanned planes in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as, for targeted attacks of suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen.

Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the FBI uses drones for surveillance on U.S. soil.

Many states and industry officials favor using drones for civilian purposes, but hurdles including regulatory approval and public skepticism remain.

Blakey said potential benefits were obscured by misperceptions of how remotely piloted planes would be used in the United States. AIA said the worldwide market for such unmanned planes would exceed $89 billion over the next decade.   Continued...

Michael Niesen (2nd L) of MAVinci explains the camera equipped "Sirius" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during a training session for clients on an airfield for model aircraft in Walldorf near Heidelberg, June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski