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While Washington competes to be designated a test site for unmanned aircraft by the FAA a new report details just how much money the drone industry could bring to our state. New estimates show Washington could see an economic impact of more than $1.3 billion in just three years. (AP Photo/File)

Drones could bring billions of dollars, jobs, to Washington state

It's a controversial idea, but it's also an idea that could be very beneficial financially.

Washington is behind only California when it comes to the economic impact we could see if the federal government moves ahead with plans to incorporate drone aircraft into civilian airspace.

While Washington competes to be designated a test site for unmanned aircraft by the FAA a new report details just how much money the drone industry could bring to our state. New estimates show Washington could see an economic impact of more than $1.3 billion in just three years.

"Washington is one of those states that would be benefited the most. You have Boeing, which is already involved in this. But you also have all the spin-offs from having a high number of well-trained engineers with product knowledge on this," says study author and aviation economist Daryl Jenkins.

Nationally, the immediate impact could be upwards of $13 billion, according to Jenkins.

"In the first three years, probably an integration into the National Airspace system UAS's will create more than 70,000 good paying, domestic jobs," says Jenkins. "By 2025 the total job creation is estimated somewhere over 100,000 jobs."

This includes the manufacture and purchase of unmanned aerial systems but doesn't take into account training, maintenance and other ripple effects a drone industry could have on our economy. It also doesn't consider the military drone industry which already totals in the billions of dollars each year.

In Washington, we could see an even greater benefit if the FAA approves Grant County airport as a test site for drone aircraft. By the end of the year, only six will be designated across the country.

Michael Toscano is the CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems. He says, "at the present time, there is an estimate of someplace between 28 and 30 different applicants that are looking to be considered as test sites."

According to Toscano, the industry is already aware they will have to keep privacy top of mind as they integrate drones into public airspace.


Kim Shepard, KIRO Radio Reporter
Kim Shepard is a news anchor and reporter for KIRO Radio and the office optimist. She's energetic, quick to laugh and has a positive outlook on life.
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