Drones as weapons and drones as spies remain matters of intense debate across the country, but the controversial aircraft are poised to make an impact as something else: economic engines.

Private-sector drones — also called unmanned aerial systems or UAVs — will create more than 70,000 jobs within three years and will pump more than $82 billion into the U.S. economy by 2025, according to a major new study commissioned by the industry’s leading trade group.

But the report, authored by aerospace specialist and former George Washington University professor Darryl Jenkins, assumes that the White House and Congress stick to the current schedule and have in place the necessary legal and regulatory frameworks.

Current law calls for full drone integration into U.S. airspace by September 2015, but many key privacy questions surrounding UAVs have yet to be answered. There’s also growing doubt that the Federal Aviation Administration can meet the congressionally mandated timetable.

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