Agricultural UAVs in the U.S.: potential, policy, and hype
- Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment
- New technologies often pass through a period of their promoters׳ exaggerations. Unrealistic expectations, or hype, produce consumer excitement and then disenchantment with the technology before its acceptance. Using the Garter Hype Cycle as a framework, this study examines expectations regarding domestic applications of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in agriculture. A content analysis of 5418 U.S. media reports from 2010 through 2014 shows hype was used in describing potential UAV applications in farming. Media reports were highly speculative and overly optimistic, and in the near term largely unrealistic. The agricultural UAV hype appears to be a response to hostility toward government domestic surveillance use of UAVs. As public hostility toward police use of UAVs increased, media reports shifted away from government deployment to the economic development created by relatively noncontroversial commercial applications. Hype has both potential benefits and costs for those seeking expansion of a technology. The hype was arguably necessary to allay negative public opinion and a hostile political environment toward domestic expansion of the UAV. The negative ramification of hype is that a period of disillusionment follows the inevitable realization that expectations for the technology were unrealistic. Market expansion is stalled or even derailed. According to the Garter Hype Cycle, there will be a period of disillusionment regarding the contributions of UAVs to agriculture once there is the legalization of commercial applications in the U.S. However, UAV deployment on farms should increase after realistic expectations regarding near-term contributions are developed and disseminated.