US announces test sites for drone aircraft (Update)

Dec 30, 2013 by Michelle Rindels
This Sept. 2013 file photo shows The Reaper drone, now known as a Global Hawk, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday Dec. 30, 2013, 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, the agency said. (AP Photo/ Las Vegas Sun, Richard Velotta, File)

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

Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments, Federal Aviation Administration 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 Federal Aviation Administration 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.

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 from Nevada, a Democrat.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, called the announcement a "slam dunk" for central and northern New York.

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.

Tests will determine whether drones can detect and avoid obstacles—including other aircraft—and whether they can operate safety when they lose contact with their operators.

"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.

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.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, introduced a bill that would prohibit drones from checking for criminal or regulatory violations without a warrant.

"I just don't like the concept of drones flying over barbecues in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates," Paul said in an interview, referring to a New York City ban on supersized soft drinks.

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.

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User comments : 15

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TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2013
"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."

-Ahaahaaahaha These people would rather have cops in copters and patrol cars, chasing after bad guys, endangering their lives and ours, and spending a lot more money to do it, rather than using speedcams and drones and gps trackers to do exactly the same thing. More fashion whores who enjoy catchphrases like 'big brother' and 'surveillance society' because it requires less thought and well its cool.
Mimath224
not rated yet Dec 30, 2013
@TheGhostofOtto1923 one has to take the good with the bad on this type of venture which was bound to come having used drones abroad. My mian concern would be traffic. I don't know what numbers of aircraft are in the skies over the USA at any given time but to estimate that there could be 7500 drones in a couple of years sounds like a big increase in traffic to me. Having said that, I wouldn't think that all 7500 will be in the air at the same time. My thoughts are along the line that an accident in the air is more likely to be fatal and even more widespread damage than road traffic. Obviously the test sites will have such ideas in mind but I have no doubt that one way or another drones will be a common feature in the sky in the not too distant future...there are lots of dollars to be made.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2013
7500 drones in a couple of years sounds like a big increase in traffic to me
Self-driving cars will have the ability to talk to each other regarding direction, speed, destination, road conditions , etc. We can expect that drones and aircraft in general will be doing this.

They will be forming networks capable of gathering and analyzing more info about environment and target subjects than single entities or ground-based tech could ever do. I think this will make the skies safer than they are now.

In a few decades there will be very few piloting and driving tasks left for humans at all. Hallelujah.
Mimath224
not rated yet Dec 30, 2013
@TheGhostofOtto1923 'In a few decades there will be very few piloting and driving tasks left for humans at all. Hallelujah.'

And human beings will blame everything on technology and take less responsibility than we do now. Not my idea 'progress'.
Huns
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2013
Right now, if the cops want to spy on people with a helicopter, they have to pay several thousand dollars an hour to do so. (Fuel + insurance + MX reserve + pilots + support people + etc. Mostly fuel and MX reserve as they can easily burn 50+ gallons/hour of Jet A, and you have to set aside money for an inspection every 100 hours plus annual plus engine and other maintenance programs.) With drones, it will be a few hundred at most for a highly capable drone and under a hundred for simple short range camera-bearing platforms.

There is also some danger to aircraft. Drones may be able to communicate with each other but plenty of pilots won't have gear that will notify them of the presence of drones. The ADS-B system is currently being implemented in some systems but is not available everywhere. Where it is, some airplanes won't have it because the receivers can easily cost thousands. TCAS is another option but even if you have it it doesn't always help.

I like it better as it is now :^)
eric_in_chicago
5 / 5 (1) Dec 31, 2013
yeah, huns, i like the fact of the good-old-days when spying on people was expensive...

with all types of armed robocops i ask myself, what is the price, morally, safety-wise for it to kill a person?

who answers to anyone when a drone kills a human being? who is caught on camera when a robot brutalizes a person?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Dec 31, 2013
@TheGhostofOtto1923 'In a few decades there will be very few piloting and driving tasks left for humans at all. Hallelujah.'

And human beings will blame everything on technology and take less responsibility than we do now. Not my idea 'progress'.
Will technology care what you think? Technology will keep people from driving drunk, falling asleep at the wheel, tailgating, drag racing, road raging, misinterpreting or ignoring instruments on landing approaches, etc.

Further, people will know that ALL their activities while interacting with machines are being duly recorded, and so will act accordingly. Machines will make people more diligent and more responsible. Machines will not allow people to get away with cheating or law-breaking, which is why most people vehemently resist this inevitability.

Cameras in banks do keep people from stealing yes?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2013
who answers to anyone when a drone kills a human being?
Who answers now when a human drone kills a human being? Who answered for mjr calley or pat Tillman?

Such killings from rage or accident will be greatly reduced.
who is caught on camera when a robot brutalizes a person?
Why would a robot do this unless it was programmed to do so, as with humans? And only with robots can we know the programmer responsible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2013
set aside money for an inspection every 100 hours plus annual plus engine and other maintenance programs.) With drones, it will be a few hundred at most for a highly capable drone and under a hundred for simple short range camera-bearing platforms
-Exactly. Drones and cameras make LOTS more sense.
but plenty of pilots won't have gear that will notify them of the presence of drones.
Of course they will or they won't be allowed to fly.
I like it better as it is now :^)
Why - because you still have the ability to exceed the speed limit and tailgate and maybe not get caught? Such compulsion while normal and intrinsic is unacceptable in today's world.

Domestication hurts don't it ?
bearly
not rated yet Jan 01, 2014
This will definitely be misused unless we get rid of the status quo in D.C..
Returners
1 / 5 (2) Jan 01, 2014
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.


This will be a good thing.

If you are afraid of government surveillance potentially incriminating you for some behavior, you have two options:

1, if you are a criminal, you can always change your behavior.

2, If you are not a criminal and simply want some back-up plan against false incrimination, you can buy a digital video camera and keep your own video for counter-evidence against any potential wrongful prosecution.

Honest people have nothing to lose from increased surveillance.

My biggest concern about civilian or commercial drones is the potential for them to fall into the hands of terrorists who may use them as "guided missiles".
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2014
1) sorry I don't want to wear a helmetcam all the time
2) re terrorist guided missile attacks why aren't you already shaking in your uh socks?
http://youtu.be/KmKdA6L_MWk
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2014
Meanwhile, in a nearby alternate parallel reality, humanity is already building cities in the skies. Gleaming structures made with heat-activated lighter-than-air aerogel. There is widespread use of the safest and simplest airframes ever devised: a de Laval nozzle to direct decomposing H2O2 for launch, a bit of a glide, and a paraglider for landing. The skies are filled with many kinds of aircraft buzzing and flirting about, all moderated by literal networking in the "cloud," where air-traffic control is just another cyberspace protocol.

Fear, paranoia and ignorance make all the difference between that reality and the one we're in. It's such a shame that those are the key ingredients for a vigorous economy.

@Ghost—how do you like the fashion now?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jan 02, 2014
Meanwhile, in a nearby alternate parallel reality, humanity is already building cities in the skies. Gleaming structures made with heat-activated lighter-than-air aerogel. There is widespread use of the safest and simplest airframes ever devised: a de Laval nozzle to direct decomposing H2O2 for launch, a bit of a glide, and a paraglider for landing. The skies are filled with many kinds of aircraft buzzing and flirting about, all moderated by literal networking in the "cloud," where air-traffic control is just another cyberspace protocol.

Fear, paranoia and ignorance make all the difference between that reality and the one we're in. It's such a shame that those are the key ingredients for a vigorous economy.

@Ghost—how do you like the fashion now?
Ah. You live in Denver don't you? Mile high city? Only drones there are the noises you stoners make as the dribble runs down your chins-
Mimath224
not rated yet Jan 02, 2014
@Returners Hmmm...not too sure about this. Doesn't the level of honesty depend, partly, on what one knows of the Law? In the extreme hypothetical case, one might break the Law and not know it, that is to say new laws might come into force fast but one might be unaware. This, I know, would have to be some type of 'George Orwell 1984' state. However, I am pretty sure that some laws are not enforced and so one doesn't know them but would drones of the future report all laws that are broken?

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