FAA moves closer to widespread US drone flights with plan for test sitesSubmitted by DeMolay on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 05:34
WASHINGTON – A future in which unmanned drones are as common in U.S. skies as helicopters and airliners has moved a step closer to reality with a government request for proposals to create six drone test sites around the country.
The Federal Aviation Administration made the request Thursday, kicking off what is anticipated to be an intense competition between states hoping to win one of the sites.
Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a "surveillance society" in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.
The military has come to rely heavily on drones overseas. Now there is tremendous demand to use drones in the U.S. for all kinds of tasks that are too dirty, dull or dangerous for manned aircraft. Drones, which range from the size of a hummingbird to the high-flying Global Hawks that weigh about 15,000 pounds without fuel, also are often cheaper than manned aircraft. The biggest market is expected to be state and local police departments.
Industry experts predict the takeoff of a multibillion-dollar market for civilian drones as soon as the FAA completes regulations to make sure they don't pose a safety hazard to other aircraft.