âGo get yourself an eye patch and a camera, then walk around for as long as you can take it--I promise it wonât take very long,â Tad McGeer challenged the TechFestNW audience on Saturday afternoon. âSee if you can spy on people.â
His âtestâ is a response to the criticism that drones, or unmanned aircraft (UACâs for short), are predominantly scary surveillance tools used to collect data for nefarious reasons.
âWeâre going through a big fad right now,â he says.
McGeer is the founder of drone manufacturing company Aerovel, where heâs working to improve the efficiency and automation of UACâs. His latest project is called the Flexrotor. It's a fully automated UAC with a 9-yard wingspan that flies both vertically and horizontally, takes off, lands and refuels itself.
If he can get it's cost down from the thousands of dollars per flight hour to the hundreds, he hopes the drone might replace dangerous and expensive helicopters used for mapping and tracking fish, wildfires and hurricanes.
âI wasn't thrilled by the idea of making profit on the war on Iraq,â McGeer said Saturday about his moral motivations for leaving Insitu.âBut thereâs also a business concern - which is that I want to do civil application and defense contractors are no good at doing that.â