As many of you know, drones have been a centerpiece of our war on terror. They allow our military to strike terrorists in remote regions such as the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan without risking countless troops or military assets.
Recently, drones have been repurposed for civilian use. The Research and Development (R&D) laboratories of innovative companies like Amazon.com and Google X (Google’s R&D labs) have been developing and testing drones for such purposes as delivering medicines and packages to remote global regions that would otherwise be cost prohibitive and dangerous. For example, medications needed for stranded and injured hikers on the top of Mount Everest.
Now State Farm Insurance, the nation’s largest home and auto insurer, is considering using drones to improve its ability to process claims in disaster-stricken areas. Their recent pitch to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow them to do so is, “property and casualty insurers play a major role in funding the restoration of businesses and communities after major incidents and unmanned aircraft, such as drones, will only facilitate and streamline this process.”
This recent example of technology transfer from government labs to civilian use is consistent with our nation’s history. The government best delivers basic research because there is no profit motive for public companies to fund pure R&D. Furthermore, as evidenced by such applications of drones by State Farm and other companies, this basic R&D, often developed by DARPA, other government labs or public universities for military use, can eventually provide countless civilian benefits not originally envisioned by its R&D creators! These are the ancillary benefits of basic research. Another example is the microchip, which was born out of the need for increased processing power within very, very tight area constraints of our NASA space capsules. Now microprocessors are omnipresent!
Besides personal benefit as an engineering recruiter recruiting more engineering talent for my client’s technical positions, there are many other national benefits accrued from increased R&D. This is substantiated by past articles:
all of which point to the need for a greater focus on R&D, engineering, scientific and technical endeavors.
However, in order for these R&D efforts to be successful, we also need to energize our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training. This can include, as I previously wrote “Comedic Education Increases Future R&D“ adding comedy to make STEM subjects more fun and easier to learn.
Additionally, as I shared in the video http://youtu.be/kKJiTUykoRY?list=UU7PSVH_DnMAFhS1pu56S5_w with almost 74% of STEM graduates not being able to find jobs in STEM fields, the government needs to create and fund more major research projects with utilitarian benefit. As I shared in previous articles: a) Design Engineering Jobs Can Help You Reach the Stars and b) A New Space Race To Fuel Technical Jobs these can include novel projects to build taller buildings, better roads and stronger infrastructure.
In summary, historically, there have been many proven offshoots from government and military R&D programs. These range from the microprocessor to commercial drones. All can yield many, many long-term R&D benefits to our society! As a result, we need to ramp up our R&D efforts to ensure our future competitiveness.
What are your thoughts?