FAA Names Test Sites For Drones In U.S. Airspace

Dec 30, 2013
Originally published on December 30, 2013 5:13 pm
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The Federal Aviation Administration named six locations today inside the U.S. that will by flying and testing unmanned drone aircraft. But as Ryan Delaney of member station WRVO reports, many questions remain about safety and privacy.

RYAN DELANEY, BYLINE: FAA administrator Michael Huerta says they looked for a good mix of geography and climate when picking from the two dozen applicants.

MICHAEL HUERTA: It provides the platform for this research to really be carried out on a very large scale across the entire country.

DELANEY: Drone testing is now permitted in Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Virginia and New York. They'll use airspace in neighboring states, too. Commercial drones are an estimated $100 billion industry. Agriculture will be an early adopter so farmers can more easily monitor their crops and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently sparked interest in using them to deliver packages.

Michael Toscano of the Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says anything is possible.

MICHAEL TOSCANO: All those dirty, dangerous, difficult and dull jobs that human beings have had difficulty with since the dawn of man, now become easier and available.

DELANEY: The FAA has an end of 2015 deadline to have these drones sharing the skies with commercial and general aviation aircraft. The states hope having a test site will center then in the industry. Al Palmer, director of the University of North Dakota's unmanned aviation program says they've worked up to this for years.

AL PALMER: We already have a certain mass or center of gravity. Having said that, having the test site is going to increase that center of gravity to attract more.

DELANEY: Rob Simpson was part of the coalition of defense contractors and universities in New York that put in a successful bid. He says they hope to nab some of the 70,000 predicted jobs.

ROB SIMPSON: This is an industry that we know is growing exponentially and Central New York, we want a piece of that opportunity.

DELANEY: Drones will begin test flights in their designated air space by this summer. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Delaney in Syracuse, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.