Rise of the Drones?

The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.

Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.

The FAA does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected.

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The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years of getting widespread access to American airspace.

Representatives from winning states were jubilant about the FAA announcement and the likelihood that the testing will draw companies interested in cashing in on the fledgling industry.

"This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy," said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

The competition for a test site was robust, Huerta said, as 25 entities in 24 states submitted proposals. At least one of the six sites chosen will be up and running within 180 days, while the others are expected to come online in quick succession, he said during a conference call with reporters.

The designations don't come with a financial award from the government.

While selecting the sites, the FAA considered geography, climate, ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience and risk.

In choosing Alaska, the FAA cited a diverse set of test site locations in seven climatic zones. New York's site at Griffiss International Airport will look into integrating drones into the congested northeast airspace.

Nevada offered proximity to military aircraft from several bases.

The state of North Dakota already has committed $5 million to the venture and named a former state Air National Guard Commander as its test site director.

"These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

An industry-commissioned study has predicted more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens drone restrictions on U.S. skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000.

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North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said the designation positions his state as a northern hub for unmanned systems and should attract students, researchers and aerospace technology companies.

The growing drone industry has critics among conservatives and liberals.

Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to "a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities," the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.

Huerta said his agency is sensitive to privacy concerns involving drones. Test sites must have a written plan for data use and retention and will be required to conduct an annual review of privacy practices that involves public comment.

By: Michelle Rindels

7 thoughts on “Rise of the Drones?

  1. Continually fascination how many comment on something that they cannot control directly but when it comes to something life changing such as managing trades better, most articles on here have no comments and if the sound was turned on the crickets would be chirping. Which is why so few do well in the markets long term, other "priorities" take precendence and distract valuable attention.

  2. Are you kidding? State and local municipalities would love this as well as federal authorities. Can you fathom the income alone from fines at the local level. Wake up America! How does this benefit the American people in the long view? Have you not seen drone strikes on the news and other videos. This is in need of serious review, inclusive of congressional rule making by all levels of our government, in an open and informative way.

  3. Harry Reid is almost always on the wrong (elite) side of every issue. I don't even need to know the details to determine that this is not to our best advantage.

  4. They're a great idea only if they are employed over Washington, DC to keep an eye on all the shenanigans taking place there and where they're unscrupuously spending and wasting our money!

  5. Not a good idea right now. Lets try to fix the waste and problems with our National Security and Health Care before we move on to the George Jetson era.

  6. Somehow giving an already corrupt government more surveillance authority does not seem to be a very good idea.

  7. Connect the dots, that is all i am going to
    say. NSA,drones, "health" care that is anything but,
    corrupt politicians,president who is not a us citizen.

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