â€œGo get yourself an eye patch and a camera, then walk around for as long as you can take it--I promise it won’t take very long,” Tad McGeer challenged the TechFestNW audience on Saturday afternoon. “See if you can spy on people.”

His “test” is a response to the criticism that drones, or unmanned aircraft (UAC’s for short), are predominantly scary surveillance tools used to collect data for nefarious reasons.

“We’re going through a big fad right now,” he says.

McGeer is the founder of drone manufacturing company Aerovel, where he’s working to improve the efficiency and automation of UAC’s. 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.

But he doesn't think they should generate profit in “wars of choice.” A 2010 WW profile written by James Pitkin describes McGeer’s flight from his former drone company, Insitu, in 2005. 

“I wasn't thrilled by the idea of making profit on the war on Iraq,” McGeer said Saturday about his moral motivations for leaving Insitu.”But there’s also a business concern - which is that I want to do civil application and defense contractors are no good at doing that.”