9 states poised to dominate the drone economy

These areas are likely to reap the benefits of the boom in unmanned aircraft.

The West Coast
Drone econ 2

More specifically, California and Washington State. The AUVSI report lists them as the No.1 and No. 2 states to benefit from job creation and increased economic activity resulting from the UAS industry, which should come as no surprise considering that the duo are also the top two states for the larger aerospace industry. Though headquartered in Chicago, Boeing's (BA, Fortune 500) major manufacturing operation is based in Washington along with subsidiary Insitu, which specializes in unmanned aircraft. It's also home to Pacific Northwest National Lab, a federally funded lab under the Department of Energy whose partial mission is to develop counterterrorism technologies through enhanced information gathering and information analysis -- activities for which UAS are well-suited. A consortium including PNNL is currently lobbying the FAA to place a test site in central Washington, which would solidify its place as a UAS industry center of gravity.

But the beating heart of the UAS industry on the West Coast and in the nation at large is further down coast in California, where powerhouse defense research labs belonging to the likes of Northrop Grumman (NOC, Fortune 500) and Lockheed Martin (LMT, Fortune 500) are scattered among storied military flight-test facilities like those at Edwards Air Force Base. Where defense is concerned, California already has the U.S. drone industry cornered. General Atomics' Predator and Reaper drones, now famous/infamous for their roles in the CIA's targeted strike programs in places like Yemen and Pakistan, roll off the assembly line in California, and small UAS maker Aerovironment -- based in Monrovia, Calif. -- supplies the Department of Defense with the vast majority of its unmanned aerial systems, mostly small surveillance drones like the man-portable Raven UAS that infantry can carry in a backpack and launch by tossing into the air like a football (pictured above). California is also aggressively pursuing an FAA test site designation, and with its gentle climate and varied geography (including plenty of maritime environment) it seems a strong candidate to receive it. The state is the center of the UAS industry as it stands right now, and that's unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 13 2013 03:27 PM ET
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