Drone Testing Could Soon Come to an Airfield Near You

By Katherine McIntire Peters

December 30, 2013

Following a 10-month evaluation process, the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday announced it had picked six entities across the country to research and test the use of remotely-piloted aircraft in domestic airspace.

While the potential widespread use of drones has alarmed privacy advocates and some safety officials, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, “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.”

A September report by the department’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, conducted at the request of the Air Force, estimated that civilian agencies at all levels of government will operate as many as 70,000 unmanned systems in domestic airspace by 2035, many for emergency response. What’s more, the center predicts that as the market for unmanned systems evolves, commercial drone sales will approach 250,000 by 2035, of which 175,000 will be in the commercial marketplace.

“Safety continues to be our first priority as we move forward with integrating unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We have successfully brought new technology into the nation’s aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft.”

The six operators include:

The six were selected among 25 proposals from 24 states. 


By Katherine McIntire Peters

December 30, 2013

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