Americas Civil

Civilian drones in crosshairs amid privacy worries

WASHINGTON — It’s a good bet that in the not-so-distant future, aerial drones will be part of everyday life in the U.S.

Far from the killing machines whose missiles incinerate terrorists overseas, these generally small, unmanned aircraft will help police departments find missing people. Real estate agents will use them to film videos of properties and surrounding neighborhoods. Oil companies will use them to monitor pipelines.

With military budgets shrinking, drone makers have been counting on the civilian market to spur the industry’s growth.

But the industry worries that it will be grounded because of public fear that the technology will be misused.

Some companies say the uncertainty has caused them to put U.S. expansion on hold, and they are looking overseas for new markets.

“Our lack of success in educating the public about unmanned aircraft is coming back to bite us,” said Robert Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of The BOSH Group, which provides support services to drone users.

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