Here come the drones — but no TacoCopters for you

Rotary Robotics

In Scott Kirsner’s latest Innovation Economy column, he addresses a growing industry that’s been getting a lot of buzz: Unmanned aerial Vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, which the FAA estimates will total 30,000 by 2020.

Kirsner notes that Rotary Robotics, CyPhy Works, and Aurora Flight Sciences are all driving local development in the industry, but one marquee name is noticeably absent: iRobot, which has built itself into a robotics juggernaut with consumer, commercial, and military devices and which has also been developing new robots for underwater work.

So if they have land and sea, is air coming? Not likely anytime soon: An iRobot executive told me a few weeks ago that the company thought that market was too crowded and emergent, particularly as so many nimble start-ups clamor to grab a share of a market that is, legally, almost entirely hobbyist and underground. Non-governmental drone use beyond some tight, limited parameters (think what you could do with a traditional RC copter) is tightly regulated, the the FAA hasn’t been shy about sending stern warnings to those who try to skirt those rules.

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Wth the amount of interest and innovation in the area, the cheeky San Francisco parody start-up TacoCopter might actually take flight and start delivering unmanned aerial gorditas in the not-too-distant future. Until then, be prepared to do pick-ups and deliveries the old-fashioned way.