Attack of the Drones: Texas Could be a Top Drone Producer, Thanks to NASA
Illustration by Monica Fuentes
If you talk about being from Texas, people automatically think of the stuff us Texans are famous for -- oil, cattle, more oil, guys with really great mustaches and awesome cowboy boots, riding horses to school -- but in the coming years, they may also think Texas, land of the drones. (Ooh, and then if the drones ever become sentient and start attacking mankind, we'll bet the Lone Star State will have a pretty good shot at starring location in the movie. They could call it Attack of the Drones.)
Despite the fact that the state legislature just banned (most) private drone use, the folks over at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International looked into their crystal ball and proclaimed that Texas could be one of the top producers of drones in the coming years. Texas is predicted to be third in the list of states that could see a boost in jobs and the economy when drone production really starts booming, right after California and Washington, according to Fortune. (You know the West Coast is just thrilled to be topping this list.)
Why Texas, you ask? Well, it all rhymes with sh-NASA. When the federal government moved the hub of the U.S. space program from Langley to Houston, building the Johnson Space Center and giving Houston the chance to finally have a cool nickname -- and we all know it's way better to be known as "Space City" than, let's say, "City of Hate" -- the move also brought a lot of brainy aerospace and engineering types down this way. Despite recent talk of cuts at Johnson Space Center, the place is still a draw for the kinds of people that will be needed to produce lots of drones, according to Fortune. (Why work to be an astronaut when we don't even have a shuttle anymore and over at Drones Inc. you'll be making so much money you'll be able to swim in it, just like Scrooge McDuck?)
The brainpower around the Johnson Space Center isn't the only draw, of course. There's also engineering programs like the ones at Texas A&M (they've had drones for years) and the presence of defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and a bunch of other outfits specializing in aerospace, defense or both. Because if you're aiming to make a bunch of flying robot-type things, then obviously you'll need people who know how to make things fly and, we guess, make those robotic flying things shoot stuff. Or, you know, just patrol the highways with an option to shoot stuff, like the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office drone.
Last week President Obama made a speech where he talked about curtailing the use of drones. You might be wondering whether this means the end of all that potential drone production in Texas, but since the president was fairly vague about the details on cutting back on the U.S. drone strikes, according to The New York Times, it's not something to worry about just yet.
Either way, Texas is not only supposed to have the right climate and geography for drone making, according to Fortune -- we're pretty sure this means they watched Giant and The Searchers and decided that all of Texas is a desert with cows, tumbleweeds and oil derricks. Even though The Searchers wasn't actually shot in Texas -- Texans are also supposed to be totally into this whole drone thing.
While some may think the idea of drones cruising through the skies is a little too Orwellian for their taste, and while others may start wondering if Arnold Schwarzenegger really IS a robot from the future, Texans should be cool with drones. After all, that unmanned helicopter up in Montgomery County has worked out fine -- aside from that one little crash. Sure, some people in Austin have raised concerns about privacy and the whole concept of drones in general, but people won't really worry a bit about all of that down in Texas. Someone is probably already making "Texas Hearts Drones" bumper stickers and T-shirts right now.