WASHINGTON -

It's a good bet that aerial drones will one day be part of Americans' everyday lives, performing countless useful functions.

They're a stark departure from the killing machines whose missiles incinerate terrorists. These smaller unmanned aircraft can help farmers precisely apply water and pesticides to crops, help police departments find missing people, reconstruct traffic accidents and act as lookouts for SWAT teams.

But industry officials say the civilian unmanned aircraft industry is in danger of being grounded before it can take off, in part because of an emerging public backlash based on fears the technology will be misused. Delays in issuing government safety regulations for drones are also hindering the industry.