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Feds Announce Drone Aircraft Testing Sites

Mike Miley

Alberto González - published on 12/30/13

Critics – liberals and conservatives alike – continue to cite concerns over the potential for drones to infringe on privacy rights.

Though drones have appeared in the news in recent years in the context of military strikes and their potential to be used to spy à la Big Brother, it appears more and more likely that this technology could one day become available for use in the private sector, including business, farming, and research.

The FAA announced on Monday that six new states – Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia – will host research sites for drone testing. This array of states promises to provide a variety of climatological, geographical, and air traffic environments for testing purposes.

Members of Congress lobbied heavily to bring the testing sites to their own states, recognizing the potential for strong economic booms. A study commissioned by drone industries concluded that over 70,000 new jobs would develop within three years of Congress’ lift on drone restrictions in U.S. airspace. The average salary for a drone pilot was estimated at being between $85-115,000. While private use of drones is still not permitted by the FAA, it is expected that a new set of guidelines will be released toward the latter part of 2015, thereby opening drones to commercial use.

Critics – liberals and conservatives alike – continue to cite concerns over the potential for drones to infringe on privacy rights. However, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that 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.”

The question here is whether privacy rights can be weighed against economic potential in such a way that society could benefit from both a proper protection of legitimate rights and a new development for the American economy – one that could put drone technology to more constructive use than air strikes on civilians. Only time will tell exactly how this technology continues will be put to use in the near future; the one thing that is certain is that it will take on a rather different nature than what we have seen thus far.

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