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Wow, every day there are just more and more stories on the newswires about these damned "drones".
Now I'm pretty interested in this technology but I have to say that the media coverage is getting close to saturation -- at least on the publications I normally frequent.
Both the military and civilian use of these devices is about to explode -- which means there is *huge* commercial potential for companies that get in early, develop a good product and back it up with good support and training.
To do that, we're going to need a new generation of graduates who are qualified in a number of varying disciplines. Electronics, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, composite engineering, etc, etc.
On their own, these are all exciting fields for any "geek" but the chance to actually work in a company that produces something as cool as "a drone" must add even more "wow" factor.
Australia realises this and they have their "Outback Joe" UAV challenge in Brisbane each year to encourage students to take an interest in the various disciplines involved.
This has been a very successful promotion of the technology and will be putting the Aussies in a good position to take advantage of capitalising on this nascent market once it really takes off.
I was seriously thinking about organising a similar "challenge" here in NZ -- doing the rounds to rake up some kind of prizes and some sponsorship for the event.
But, apparently, such a move would be doomed to failure -- because flying UAVs of any kind is either a breach of CAA policy or would involve tremendous compliance costs (such as having a commercial pilot license to fly the damned thing).
What a shame.
Imagine how many bright young minds would be catalyzed into action if they had the chance to compete for even a meagre $5K prize by designing and building a UAV that was then put to the test by achieving a series of relatively simple goals.
How many future "experts" and export-earners would such a challenge create?
How much better would NZ be positioned to compete on the world market when the demand for these devices really takes-off (no pun intended)?
But no -- it seems that as usual, NZ is mired in red tape and a seemingly endless list of things you can't do.
Instead of focusing on the positive and the potential for generating the human resource required for another potentially very lucrative hi-tech industry, we're too busy inventing reasons why it's just not safe or desirable.
So I offer a big apology to all those bright Kiwi kids who'd really love to be beavering away on airframes, guidance systems, video cameras etc -- in eager anticipation of pitting themselves and their craft against others.
Better go book your position on the dole queue instead.
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