Central Oregon could be the place to pioneer the new market in unmanned aerial vehicles. The industry hits many of the right checkboxes for the local economy. It would diversify and expand the economy. It would bring in high-paying jobs. And it might even be realistic that Central Oregon will be the place where it happens.
But it is certainly more realistic after Thursday night’s Tech Forum at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center. The partners that brought the event together — Economic Development for Central Oregon, Oregon State University-Cascades Campus and Rod Ray, the CEO of Bend Research, Inc., — deserve credit for recognizing the potential and acting.
There are those who are uncomfortable with UAVs. They are used in war. They can be used to trample privacy. But UAV technology is similar to many technologies. They have many applications. UAVs also have great promise in search and rescue and in spotting and fighting wildfires.
There is also opportunity to capture part of the drone market even if the Federal Aviation Administration does not select this area as one of six nationwide testing zones.
Without the efforts of the organizers and participants of the Tech Forum, capitalizing on the new industry is less likely to succeed.