Droning on about economic development

There is an excellent article in the Economist this week in the rise of unmanned drones for civilian use.   I was particularly interested to read that many U.S. cities are trying to convince the FAA to make them one  of six test locations for the use of drones.   If they are selected, they will be able to attract firms developing drones and applications.

I know there are privacy issues here but that is not my point.

My point is about competitive advantage.

Why shouldn’t Moncton or Fredericton or Bathurst be lobbying to be among the first cities in Canada to allow unmanned drones and then working to attract and develop firms in this sector?

You and I both know that is not going to happen.  The last time a New Brunswick city was ‘first’ at anything was probably in 1854.  We’re just not wired that way.  But we should be.

We should have a team of researchers – in the bowels of some secret government agency – trying to identify ways the province could develop unique competitive advantages and then lever those advantages for development.

I know the purists would bristle at this view.

But I don’t care.   Businesses do not invest in communities unless there is a clear reason to do so.  That can involve local market potential but that potential is distinctly restricted by the size of the local market.  For those firms with export-based opportunities, there has to be a clearly definable value proposition.  This can be cost-based, tax-based, workforce-based infrastructure-based, regulation-based, natural resource-based, geography-based, university-based – whatever — but it has to be there.

Spending some time – like San Diego trying to become one the six test cities for drones – thinking up innovative new tricks – is a great idea.

5 thoughts on “Droning on about economic development

  1. Your sarcasm underpins precisely the negative attitude towards this city you frequently complain about.. OhhhHHHhhh the irony..

    ‘the last time a New Brunswick city was ‘first’ at anything was probably in 1854.’


    3 minutes of searching tells me :


    In 2002, Moncton became Canada’s first officially bilingual city

    In December 2001, the City of Moncton launched the first municipality in Canada to offer is services over mobile wireless

    In October of 2007, Moncton became the first city in Canada to deploy public broadband Internet on public transit.

    Molson/Coors opened a brewery in the Caledonia Industrial Park in 2007, their first new brewery in over fifty years

    Royal Oaks is the first Rees Jones designed golf course in Canada

    Moncton, 2010, was the first neutral site regular season game in the history of the Canadian Football League


    I could ‘drone’ on and on – but you get the point – why are you such a negative cheerleader for Moncton ? Sad.

  2. David: Check out Prof. Howard Li and his COBRA research group in UNB’s Faculty of Engineering. He and his graduate students are doing some great work with unmanned airborne and land-based systems.

  3. Yeah, I have to agree that unfortunately it often seems to be the really ‘bad’ innovations that are brought up as examples of how to innovate. Regardless of how people feel about the NBPower sale or shale gas, it really has to be admitted that these were horribly managed by the government. And I’m pretty sure it was at this blog years ago that we were discussing “clusters” and how certain companies in some parts of the provinces couldn’t get ANY support because the government was investing in ‘clusters’ of specific industries is specific areas-how did that work out for you?

    I think it works in the reverse. In Waterloo there was the local drive to build technology industries, and those industries needed workers, which developed the educational system, and given RIM’s situation I’d almost suggest that its the educational system, and not the technology industry itself, which is the real success story-the city is growing faster than ever even though RIM hasn’t been growing for years.

    That DIDN”T come from some secret cabal of government researchers who hid in a basement like some dictatorship deciding ‘whats best for the local dregs’. Thats because the ‘fact’ of the matter is that in a knowledge economy it is the PEOPLE who supply the innovation. But people need support in innovation, which is what I suggest should be the government’s function.

    We already saw a push for Saint John to be an ‘energy centre’, that lasted about two years. I don’t think it needs the type of researchers you are thinking of. For example, I’ll again mention the community forestry model that the village of McAdam was developing (and researching). They did considerable research and a paper now gathers dust on the shelf because the government told them to go suck eggs. There was the public intervenor working for the people of New Brunswick who told the government over a decade ago that instead of using orimulsion it should refit dalhousie into a natural gas terminal and NBPower could develop a natural gas industry, which would benefit the north. In Sussex they wanted to build an industrial park to harness the local natural gas to bring in more industries.

    In ALL of these cases it was the provincial government who killed these ideas. It was researchers who developed them all, so your problem is NOT that the research isn’t there, its that the government refuses to listen to any of them and acts, well, like petty dictators who have no interest in actually seeing the province develop in ANY sensible way.

  4. The problem isn’t the lack of ideas or the talent to build out drone projects. I know of at least half a dozen startups working on something as I type this. The big issue is Federal regulation. Right now, drones in Canada fall under the same regulations as a Boing 747 so you need a special permit/License to fly them over and above a certain elevation. Imagine having to file a flight plan everytime Amazon delivered a package, that’s what is slowing the development of this tech in Canada. But that is just the aviation hurdle, I won’t even begin on the issues surrounding privacy.

    Ultimately, this is where politicians need to step up and develop policy that is adaptable to evolving tech and ensures entrepreneurs can seize the opportunity without having to require large sums of money to lobby govt and taking years to do so.

  5. I think the point is being missed that this is simply a really stupid idea. I suspect it was simply released as a way to get media attention, and the conspiratorial part of me suspects it may be a way to simply generate social acceptance of something that has security potential. I mean come on, the technology ALREADY exists in the military, people have been flying things remotely for decades, and you can order something and have it the next day if you are willing to pay for it, so its really a silly thing to even be discussing.

    So its no surprise that the government isn’t fawning all over every technology idea that floats by, and thank heavens they aren’t. If you look at RIM or Apple’s ‘success’, it is mainly a result of government utilizing a superior service, not throwing money at it because it sounds cool.

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