Drones Over US? FAA Requests Creation Of Drone Test Sites

Drones flying over the US could happen sooner than we thought. The FAA requested proposals to create six drone test sites around the country.

The request was made on Thursday and kicks off what will likely be intense competition between states who want one of the test sites.

Along with the proposal, the Federal Aviation Administration also posted a draft plan online for protecting people’s privacy from the impending drones in the sky, reports CBS News.

The news comes as the controversy over the military’s use of drones overseas has reached a boiling point. The military relies on drones overseas to take out al Qaeda and Taliban members. Those same drone strikes have been blamed for killing thousands of innocent civilians.

Despite the controversy surrounding drones over the US, businesses note that unmanned aircraft are significantly less expensive than helicopters. The biggest market is expected to be state and local police departments. It is also possible that news stations would request drone permits for helicopter traffic cameras as well.

The FAA has already issued 1,428 permits for domestic drone operators since 2007, according to The Los Angeles Times. For critics, that number is worrisome, as it is much higher than originally thought. About 327 of those permits are still listed as active.

The federal organization already has a September 2015 deadline from Congress to open America’s airspace to drone traffic. Once that happens, the FAA estimates there sill be about 10,000 drones flying over the US just five years later.

Drones would not just be used for surveillance or capturing criminals. They are already in use in Colorado by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The office uses a fixed-wing drone to search for lost hikers in the mountains. They also have a helicopter drone that helps crews battle fires.

Ben Miller, who heads the program in Mesa County, stated that flying manned planes or helicopters costs more than $600 per hour. In comparison, Miller stated, “We fly [drones] for less than $25 an hour. It’s just a new way to put a camera up that’s affordable.”

Legislatures in 15 states have already started discussing proposals to limit drone use over the US.

[Image by Wikibob (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]