D-Day: FAA pre­pares for invasion of 7,500 drones

Pri­vacy plans, trans­parency promised at test sites

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

The chief of the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­dicted Thurs­day that U.S. airspace could be crowded with as many as 7,500 com­mer­cial drones within the next five years, as he un­veiled a lon­gawaited reg­u­la­tory blue­print that seeks to pro­tect Amer­i­cans’ pri­vacy while re­quir­ing test­ing for law en­force­ment and pri­vate com­pa­nies seek­ing to op­er­ate un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles.

FAA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michael Huerta said his agency would set up six sites across the coun­try to test drone op­er­a­tors, but cau­tioned that there could be de­lays for those look­ing to ob­tain cer­tifi­cates to op­er­ate un­manned air­craft once the reg­u­la­tory guide­lines are in place. He said en­sur­ing safety in in­creas­ingly con­gested skies was his agency’s top pri­or­ity.

“We must ful­fill those obli­ga­tions in a thought­ful, care­ful man­ner that en­sures safety and pro­motes eco­nomic growth,” Mr. Huerta said in a speech to aero­space in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives.

The FAA’s an­nounce­ment is the lat­est step in the march to­ward tran­si­tion­ing drones from the mil­i­tary use in the war on ter­ror­ism that made them fa­mous to civil­ian ap­pli­ca­tions that can range from col­lect­ing sur­vey and weather data to as­sist­ing res­cues and law en­force­ment op­er­a­tions.

The As­so­ci­a­tion for Un­manned Ve­hi­cle Sys­tems, the lead­ing trade group for the na­tion’s pri­vate-sec­tor drone op­er­a­tors, es­ti­mated this year that the com­mer­cial drone in­dus­try will cre­ate more than 100,000 jobs and gen­er­ate more than $82 bil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact over the next 10 years — if the gov­ern­ment

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