Drones Will Be Tested in 10 U.S. States – Is Yours One?

At least ten states will be sites for testing drones — unmanned aircraft — in the next couple of years, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced on Monday. Six institutions have been authorized to operate test locations for the use of drones and for studying how they will interact with air traffic systems.

The drones are not the Predators, Global Hawks or other government-operated long-range planes but aircraft with potentially commercial and other uses. For instance, a Styrofoam helicopter powered by lighter fluid could be sent over fields to detect agricultural pests. An electric helicopter could be dispatched to the roof of a building to check on a water tower.

The drones will not immediately have access to the national airspace system (NAS) and are to be gradually integrated into the nation’s skies; the FAA is to develop operation guidelines by 2015. Drone research at the testing sites is intended to “help the F.A.A. answer key research questions” by providing “data and other information related to the operation” of such unmanned aircraft such as how to train and certify ground-based pilots, how to make sure the drone will still operate safely if radio contact is lost (if, for instance, the aircraft’s engine fails) and how to avoid collisions.

At Least Ten States Will Be Test Sites

The six entities that were selected as test site operators are the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).

The actual tests will occur in at least ten states. The University of Alaska proposal calls for “test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon.” Nevada’s testing will occur not only within the state but on its border with California. Griffiss International Airport is a a former Air Force base near Rome in upstate New York and will conduct some tests from Cape Cod in Massachusetts; it was chosen as a site to research the “complexities of integrating” drones into the crowded airspace in the Northeast. Virginia Tech’s tests (which are to study “failure mode,” when an aircraft’s control link is lost) will occur in Virginia and also in New Jersey in partnership with Rutgers University. The sites in North Dakota and Texas were in part chosen to provide “geographic and climatic diversity.”

Concerns About Surveillance and Privacy Loom

The idea of unarmed drones has raised questions about their possible use for surveillance. The F.A.A. does have a number of privacy requirements in place for the test program. Test site operators must “comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.”

Luis R. Sepulveda, an assemblyman from the Bronx, who has introduced a bill to limit police use of drones in the New York State Assembly, calls the F.A.A.’s announcement of test sites both “good news… and bad news,” commenting that these are “devices that can be disguised in such a way that you don’t even know you’re being recorded.” In a report last December, the American Civil Liberties Union also pointed out that giving drones more access to our airspace leads us one step closer to a “surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.”

Increased Use of Drones for Commercial Purposes is on the Horizon

The F.A.A. has already issued one commercial license to ConocoPhillips, the oil company, to use a ScanEagle (which the U.S. government uses for spying) off the Alaska coast, according to Michael P. Huerta, the agency’s administrator. The F.A.A. currently “keeps the use of drones on a short-leash, prohibiting their use except through specific test-site approval — as seen in today’s announcement — or as model airplanes and toys, only rarely granting commercial ventures the opportunity to use them,” as Think Progress notes.

Monday’s announcement suggests that is likely to change. State economic development agencies have predicted that the use of drones could turn into a “major industry,” the New York Times saysAmazon’s plan to develop a remotely powered octocopters to deliver small items could be just the start of commercial, unarmed aircraft routinely whizzing through our skies.


Photo via Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Luna Starr
luna starr4 years ago

this is beyond scary

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

Where do i sign up to get a drone hunting permit?

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

Well this sure unleashed the paranoia virus. We must all be terribly important and powerful to warrent all this survailence.Oh well, at least it's another excuse to blame Obama and crank up your favorite conspiricy theory. I hope they make them with cloaking devices so nobody can see or hear them.

Koty Lapid
Koty Lapid4 years ago

I really hope, that the people are involved in this issue like Amazon, will develop a remotely powered octocopters to deliver small items to places that is hard to reach by commercial car or train.

Debra L. Watson
Debra L Watson4 years ago

I think this an outrage! More spying on the American people is what it really boils down to! Look at all the innocent people being killed by drones overseas. What's next? Seems like more of a Hitler regime!

Tammy B.
Tammy B.4 years ago

Well just as the Indians and English fought over land in the past, if I have one of these drones in the air above my house in the front or back yard I will shoot it down. No stupid bug looking aircraft has any right to occupy the space where I live in my yard air or on the land. I still do live in the USA. We do have rights and I am not willing to give those away for nothing.And I wonder to myself for what purpose will the govt. be testing drones in 10 states? I say the testers want to test? Ok how about in their own front yard back yard or above their own personal homes? And why not? Is this too invasive? Thought so.

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth4 years ago

All this in the age of Obama?
Didn't the chosen one promise all this Government snooping was illegal and must be stopped? "

For a gov who promised that, they sure have gone about it in a funny way. Australia recently got into trouble with one of our friendly neighbours.. due to spying for America!

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth4 years ago

How long till we have drones the size of insects.. doing spying! Take care of that fly on the wall.

I have no doubt it will happen... as so many people are monitored online now and that is some how seen being okay, no doubt it wont be long till we also loose privacy to droves..