February 8, 2011
Congress passed a bill this week paving the way for unmanned drones to ply American skies.
The bill requires the FAA to rush a plan to get as many drones in the air as possible within nine months.
How many drones are we talking?
Shaun Waterman at The Washington Times reports the agency predicts that 30,000 drones could fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade.
Naturally, many are concerned that surveillance by police and federal government agencies will skyrocket in response.
From The Washington Times:
“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists...
The bill calls for numerous test ranges to be operated in conjunction with NASA and the Department of Defense, use of drones in the Arctic, guidance system improvements, and an assessment of the “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”
This new bill follows up the Army's January directive to use drone fleets in the U.S. for training missions and "domestic operations."
And both of these initiatives are mandated in the NDAA (section 1097) that calls for six drone test ranges to be operational within six months of that bills signing December 31.
The commercial drone market would be worth hundreds of millions more if the bill passes.