In a field in Halifax, James Peverill and Adam Woodworth have been test-flying a new kind of aircraft. Its flight plan is set by a smartphone or laptop, using a map on the screen. It can fly for 45 minutes, while taking still photos or video of the ground below. The FocalPlane weighs about a pound, and could cost as little as $250.
Peverill and Woodworth’s start-up, Rotary Robotics, is just one of several local groups working to demilitarize drone aircraft. While the armed forces have deployed unmanned aerial vehicles in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya that cost millions and are sometimes armed with Hellfire missiles, this new fleet will be small, cheap, and geared to tasks like evaluating farm crops, finding missing children, or inspecting bridges.