Military drone technology, which has revolutionized warfare over the last decade, will be ready for civilian use within four years and could create a market worth more than $400 billion.
That's the prediction from a UK research project backed by the government and top aerospace companies hoping for a windfall as many of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs done by manned aircraft are replaced by drones.
The consortium behind the program, which includes BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, sees potential uses for drones from search and rescue to checking oil pipelines, jobs currently done with expensive aircraft flown by pilots who get tired and often in treacherous conditions.
Unmanned aircraft are already being used in niche areas. They were flown over the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan to check the damage and the British Antarctic Survey has put them to work checking ice and snow conditions.
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