Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi

When Jeff Runions started his trucking career nearly 40 years ago, he had high hopes for what the job might bring.

"I wanted the American dream."

Since then he's seen the industry from every step of the ladder — as an independent owner-operator, a full-time company driver, a parts manager, and finally a trucking depot manager.

On a recent sunny afternoon at a solar farm outside Philadelphia, Pa., commercial drone pilots Tony Zimlich and Gunner Goldie are preparing for flight.

Dressed in hard hats and matching yellow vests, they run through a series of safety and equipment checks, and survey the surrounding terrain and airspace, before picking up what looks like a pair of oversized video game controllers. Then, with a streak of beeps and whirs, their drone — about the size of a milk crate — rises steadily into the sky above.