While plenty of privacy concerns remain, the drone industry is expected to explode in the next few years, creating thousands of new jobs and generating billions of dollars in economic activity in New Jersey and across the nation.

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In South Jersey, drone testing is set to take flight on Nov. 17 at  the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.  The drone testing program will be overseen by Michael Chumer, an information systems professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey told NBC40.net in a report published on Nov. 4, that in the next few years, the drone industry is expected to grow from $10 billion to $150 billion.

Chumer said the unmanned aerial systems can be used for various commercial purposes, to enhance homeland security and assist emergency service personnel.

"Drones could be very useful if cell phone service is disrupted during another big storm like Sandy.  An unmanned aircraft system with a communication relay sensor can bridge from entities that have communication to one that doesn't have communication." Chumer said.

In addition, drones equipped with detailed mapped sensor packages could be  beneficial after big storms that cause damage and destruction.

"State and municipal emergency responders could use drones to review damage from flooding or wildfires. They could get specific information without having to dispatch teams to the areas in question. The incidents could be power failures, the collapse of a building - there could be many incidents that are spawned as the result of a major catastrophic event," Chumer said.

Drones could also help assist in missing persons cases.

"A device that has a multi-spectral payload that allows you to view things that the eye doesn't see, like heat signatures and things like that, could be used to find an individual," Chumer said.

At the same time, Chumer said the private-sector industry, including companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook, is looking at a number of different applications for drones.

"You're looking at package delivery, you're looking at communication and relay from an internet standpoint and precision agriculture. Drones could be used by farmers so that they don't have to be riding around looking at the status of their crops - they can fly this device and it can give them visibility as to what the status of their particular crops are," Chumer said.

Meanwhile, some New Jersey lawmakers continue to push legislation that would regulate the use of drones in the Garden State. 

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