States Fighting Over Rights to Host Drone Tests

Photo (cc) by Mike Miley

Critics say when drones aren’t causing psychological trauma abroad, they could be invading our privacy at home. But if you think that would have people screaming “not in my backyard,” think again.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 37 states are in competition to become one of a half-dozen sites where the Federal Aviation Administration will test remotely flown aircraft. The FAA wants to figure out how to safely integrate drones into our airspace by 2015, and the states want money.

To be clear, the FAA isn’t going to give states money for testing. But many states are worried if they don’t get in on the ground floor, this growing industry will develop elsewhere.

Global spending on drones is estimated to double in the next 10 years to more than $11 billion, and the aircraft are expected to be used for everything from police tracking to farming and safety inspections. That’s a lot of money, and potentially a lot of jobs.

That’s why the Times says North Dakota is touting its minimal air traffic congestion, and North Carolina’s pitch is “corn doesn’t care” about privacy.

The FAA has said existing privacy laws will be followed during drone testing, and several state governments are working on additional laws that restrict drone use. Initial tests will likely use small drones (under 50 pounds) in less-populated areas.

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