The opening of US air space to drones has the potential to create a $12bn industry

October 8, 2013 6:54 pm

Technology: Eyes in the sky

By Geoff Dyer

The opening of US air space to drones has the potential to create a $12bn industry

Rodney Brossart, who owns a 3,000-acre cattle farm in North Dakota, is an unlikely trendsetter. In 2011, six cows from a neighbouring property wandered on to his farm. When he allegedly refused to return the cattle and barred law enforcement from entering his property, police asked that a Predator drone from a local air force base fly over his farm to see if Mr Brossart was armed.Mr Brossart faces trial next month on charges of theft after a court threw out his claim that he had been subjected to a “warrantless search”. But he has already made history as the first American to be arrested on US soil with the help of a drone.

Armed with Hellfire missiles, drones have become the symbol of the US global war on terror. Operating a drone in the US requires a special permit that is issued sparingly. However, Congress has decided that from 2015 drones should be given access to domestic airspace.

For supporters, the introduction of drones into domestic airspace is equivalent to the launch of the automobile or the internet – a powerful technology with the capacity to transform dozens of industries and reshape ideas about distance. They see drones, with a potential market value of $12bn by 2023, as the coming of age of robotics. “It is like the introduction of the computer in the 1980s – it is on that level,” says Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution. “It has so many different uses, so many different applications but also so many complex questions.”

To critics, the advent of domestic drones brings the threat of a new type of surveillance – an exaggerated version of the technology-led snooping that has been dramatised by Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency. “The greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone and the very few regulations that are on it today,” says Dianne Feinstein, a leading Democratic senator.

Drones – or unmanned aerial systems as the industry calls them – come in all shapes and sizes. The Predators and Global Hawks operated by the military are almost as big as a jet fighter. By contrast, Aerovironment’s Nano Hummingbird has a wingspan of 16cm, while Harvard has been developing an insect-sized flying robot called the Robobee.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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