Fiscal Austerity for Military May Spur Innovation in Drones

Whether or not drastic budget cuts called for in sequestration take effect March 1, the military, like all of government, will find funds flowing less freely from a budget-conscious Congress. That austerity will have ramifications for the unmanned vehicle (drone) industry, since the military is the number-one developer of unmanned vehicle technologies, said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). He spoke with me at the first day of the AUVSI’s Unmanned System’s Program Review 2013 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who serves on the Congressional Robotics Caucus and who was also at the conference, warned that the impact of sequestration would be far-reaching for national defense on multiple levels.

But austerity need not be viewed only in negative terms, Toscano said. Fiscal constraints will force the industry to be more inventive, he explained. And that’s likely to lead to new technology “that allows you to do things differently than you did before.”

He also discussed how drones can help be a force multiplier for a military that may have fewer boots on the ground. “You use unmanned systems that can be sometimes more effective and efficient or lower in cost, and they can still do the mission in a complimentary way. So instead of having 20 people, you only have 10 people. But it’s augmented with 5 unmanned systems that still allow those 10 people to be efficient and effective to do the same amount of mission.”

The AUVSI conference continues through Thursday.

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