An address by Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Automation Lab at MIT, was a highlight of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy’s Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference on October 11-13, which featured dozens of interdisciplinary panels, workshops and demonstrations.

Cummings, who was one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy, spoke about the history of drones, safety concerns over the unmanned vehicles, the current landscape for both military and commercial applications for drones, and future development of the technology.

Cummings noted that drones have revolutionized a dying aerospace industry and predicted that drones would do the same for other industries. She forecasted dramatic changes and wider adoption for the technology. Like the Internet, which was developed by the military and then experienced explosive growth when it was commercialized, drones would evolve to have numerous commercial applications, said Cummings.

“There’s going to be lot of disruptive technologies that governments everywhere may or may not like because we’re putting that technology in the hands of everyday people,” said Cummings.

“We really are past the tipping point,” said Cummings. “For a long time the military were the leaders in drone development, but I think in the next five to 10 years the commercial industry innovation and development will far eclipse what’s happening in the military.”

Watch more videos from the conference, including live demonstrations, here.

Posted on November 4, 2013