Drone industry thinks ‘drone’ is a dirty word

There’s an entire convention happening in Washington, DC this week for those in the drone business, but the unmanned aerial enthusiasts with close ties to the industry are going out of their way to keep the “d-word” from dropping by.

At the annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in DC, there are UAVs and other robotic systems aplenty. But at a time when the autonomous aircraft are most well-known for executing lethal strikes overseas, often ones killing civilians, those involved in the drone-biz are trying to drop that dastardly reputation, beginning first with ditching the word “drone.”John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

The average person on the street, and even intelligent and informed people, when they think of the word ‘drone,’ they think of the military, they think hostile, they think weaponized, they think large and they think autonomous,” Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, told Breaking Defense.

If you say the word ‘drone,’ 80 percent will pick the picture of a Predator – that’s what’s wrong,” Toscano told the magazine.

Now as America prepares to enter a new age of drones where UAVs are expected to soar in United States airspace soon by the tens of thousands, Toscano and company are trying to change their livelihood from being associated with lethal strikes.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the first two commercial UAV applications, and those drones are expected to start flying later this month. But even those ones will be used for environmental purposes, they are still not breaking the stigma that comes with ones that are weaponized or used for high-tech surveillance. Although it’s not the goal of the conference, the AUVS wants “drone” to go away.

Talking to the Washington Times, Toscano acknowledged that the “d-word,” and hopefully the negative connotation that comes with it, aren’t used to demonize what some say could be a very crucial tool for the future.

If you look around here today, you don’t see that,” he said. “Drones” is not a word he wants to be associated with.

“The key word is the word ‘systems.’ That’s the word we hope the public will understand,” he said. “There is a human being in the system. The human being is what makes the system. When you say the word ‘drone,’ you don’t think of a human being in control. That’s the real reason why” not to use the word “drone,” he said.

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