Drone business booms for Clackamas company

An unmanned aerial vehicle -- also known as a drone -- made by Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, July 24, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
An unmanned aerial vehicle -- also known as a drone -- made by Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, July 24, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

CLACKAMAS, Ore. (KOIN) — “Drone” sounds so military. That’s why the owner of a Clackamas company prefers to call them “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Lawrence Arthur Dennis III founded Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, July 24, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Lawrence Arthur Dennis III founded Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, July 24, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Lawrence Arthur Dennis III founded Aerial Technology International, a company that builds and sells unmanned aircraft equipped with HD cameras, to customers around the world.

“We just try to step away from ‘drones’ a little bit, just to try to put a more positive light on the technology itself,” he told KOIN 6 News.

The business for private drones is expanding as rapidly as its capabilities, from surveying to mapping, photography to movies, pizza delivery to dry cleaning drop-offs. Some drones have unlimited range and can fly as high as airplanes.  The industry estimates domestic drones could be worth more than $90 billion a year.

Two unmanned aerial vehicles -- also known as drones -- made by Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, July 24, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Two unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as drones — made by Aerial Technology International of Clackamas, shown July 24, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

The FAA, driven by safety concerns, is scrambling to have flight rules for private drones in place by 2015. Technically drones still cannot be used for commercial purposes, but companies are already buying them — trying to stay under the radar — until the government decides what they can do.

Privacy is another issue.

The ACLU helped push a bill through the Oregon legislature requiring warrants for law enforcement to use drones, except in situations such as search-and-rescue.

“Oregonians are not ready for a society where drones are filling the skies, whether it be government or private surveillance of our comings and goings,” said Becky Strauss of the ACLU.

But as drones become more sophisticated and less expensive, business is expected to soar as society figures out how to deal with all of it.

“It really needs to be focused on intent,” Dennis said. “This technology is going to continue to grow.”

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