In the future drones in the sky will be just as common as aircraft. New, smaller technology has reduced the weight of common electronics and has allowed drones to be lighter, smaller, and easier to make. Getting drones up and flying is not a problem, the problem lies within government regulations and privacy concerns. Additionally, flying drones in air space which is already occupied by lots of air traffic is also of concern.
Therefore, six test sites across the U.S. have been chosen for studying how drones can be integrated into U.S. air traffic and identifying which safety precautions needs to be met. For example, in the situation that a drone loses radio contact there should be standard procedures which will prohibit the drone from crashing or flying off its designated path. The six sites chosen for testing include: North Dakota, Alaska, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, and New York. All of the sites chosen have been picked for their Universities or research institutions which will be leading the projects. In addition, the FAA has approved 300 additional sites for drone testing which will be much smaller and consist mostly of universities and police departments.
North Dakota, one of the winning candidates for drone testing already has a long history in aerospace and drone research. In 2010 the University of North Dakota announced the country's first degree program for piloting drones. Furthermore, Grand Forks police department has already been authorized by the FAA to use drones in police missions, and deployed their first one in a mission in May of 2013. Many people at the Grand Forks Air Force base believe unmanned air vehicles are the future of aviation. Likewise, In Nevada officials predicted drone use could open thousands of jobs with an average salary range for drone piloting paying between $85,000 to $115,000.
Sign in North Dakota issued to notify public of drone use. (via popsci)
Although the potential for drone use is higher than ever, there are still many skeptics and critics fighting against it. To combat this and gain public support many committees are beginning to form. One example is the University of North Dakota's Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Compliance Committee. Members include people, which have backgrounds in academic research ethics and not necessarily drone science. The goal of the committee is to review and approve drone use proposals and set public standards. This can include creating a drone flight map, voicing public feedback, or notifying the public of drone operations.
The testing of unmanned aerial vehicles is set to start as soon as possible. The test sites can be in operation from anywhere up to 2017. In addition, the FAA is hoping to have operational guidelines in place by 2015. Commercialization of drones will be revolutionary for companies such as Amazon, but it will also bring about new laws and new concerns.
Drone usage is sure to increase the number of UFO sighting… get the tinfoil hat.
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