Last week, President Barack Obama approved legislation that will likely rapidly increase the use of drones for surveillance in the United States.
The FAA Modernization Act of 2012, which contains provisions to modernize aviation laws and to immediately integrate unmanned aircraft systems, was signed into law by Obama Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration called on State and local governments as well as universities to compete to be the location of one of six unmanned aircraft test sites the agency will operate as mandated by the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act. The agency says it will use the sites to better understand the dangers and benefits of domestic drones before they are fully introduced to the National Airspace System by 2015.
“We expect to learn how unmanned aircraft systems operate in different environments and how they will impact air traffic operations,” FAA Chief Michael Huerta said in a statement. “The test sites will inform the agency as we develop standards for certifying unmanned aircraft and determine necessary air traffic requirements.”
Part of the mission for the test sites is to develop a set of certification standards and air traffic requirements for drones and to designate airspace for the unmanned aerial vehicles. According to some reports, government bodies in roughly two dozen States have expressed interest in becoming drone research locations.
The FAA has already authorized 106 Federal, State and local entities — including law enforcement agencies, regulators and universities — to operate domestic drones. Current requirements, however, limit the size of the aircraft and how far they are allowed to fly.