The New Jersey Senate Democrats sponsored the forum. Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Sens. Jim Whelan, Jeff Van Drew and Sandra Cunningham were in attendance.
NJIT alum Sen. Paul Sarlo was also instrumental in organizing the forum and supporting the ongoing research activities.
“New Jersey’s universities and researchers are on the cutting edge of drone technology, which is playing an ever increasing role in our lives,” said Sweeney. “Our researchers and innovative business people are finding new uses for drones in our economy every day.”
Donald Sebastian, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, an NJIT Corporation, led the discussion by highlighting four practical areas of UAV application.
“New Jersey is leading in creating an environment for university and private enterprise partnerships to be able to fully vet the technology,” said Sebastian in his presentation to the senators.
“The NJ Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site run by the New Jersey Innovation Institute,” Sebastian said, “is a hub for aircraft manufacturers, payload and software system companies, university researchers, and military and government agencies to work together to advance the safe intermingling of unmanned and manned flights and expand the range of applications for its use.”
According to a 2013 economic report, the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national air space is expected to generate $82 billion in the 10 years leading up to 2025.
By then, the group estimates 104,000 new jobs will be created from the integration.
“The past 30 years we have been in the Age of Information, what we are seeing now is the Age of Automation with the advent of self-driving cars, unmanned aerial vehicles and virtual personal assistants,” said Jeff Sassinsky, president of Fovea Aero Systems. “It is like seeing the birth of the internet and much of it is happening here in New Jersey.”
The New Jersey testing site, which is easily assessable from mountain regions, the ocean, agricultural and rural land, dense urban environments—and based in some of the most heavily traveled air space in the country—is the ideal proving ground for researchers and corporations looking for all of the possible conditions and uses for the rapidly advancing technology.
“It is inspiring to see how these institutions are expanding the partnership of technology and aviation,” said Sen. Cunningham, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Today was an eye opening lesson on how our universities are working together and leading research into drone technology.”