More drones coming to airspace near you?

Keep your eyes on the skies. A bill working its way through Congress could dramatically increase the number of drones allowed in U.S. airspace, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The House of Representatives on Feb. 3 passed a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that would ease restrictions on the places unmanned aerial vehicles are allowed to fly. The robotic aircraft have mostly been used by law enforcement agencies and by the military in combat zones, and the FAA has limited their widespread use in national airspace because of concerns that their lack of "detect, sense and avoid" technology could raise the risk of midair collisions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill would direct the FAA to find a way of bringing many smaller UAVs into general and commercial air traffic by September 2015. It would set up six test areas around the country for demonstrating safety technology to minimize the risk of UAVs colliding with larger aircraft.

The military has used drones in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Homeland Security Department has employed them along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to the Washington Post. As of Dec. 1, the FAA reported more than 270 active authorizations for the use of several types of drones. The Defense Department held 35 percent of the permissions, NASA held 11 percent, and DHS had 5 percent, the Post reported. The rest were granted to other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, academic institutions and companies that manufacture UAVs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that if the drone provision becomes law, state and local governments and private companies could launch large drone fleets in the foreseeable future.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 Ed Pike Road

Big brother is moving right along.This is the Military-Industrial complex at work. Buy a few representatives / Congressmen and you are off. Isn't modern technology wonderful. Add your own platitude here.

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 ty NE

I think it is stupid to send drones in the U.S.A

Wed, Feb 8, 2012

Why does DOD need 35% of permissions inside the U.S.A.? "The Defense Department held 35 percent of the permissions"

Tue, Feb 7, 2012

recommended reading: "Watchbird" by Robert Sheckley

Tue, Feb 7, 2012

Another step towards making "The Terminator" a reality, not just science fiction. Just because the technology is available to create drone air craft and the artificial intelligence to control them does not justify the creation of these vehicles for either security or commercial purposes. Mankind needs to remain in control.

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