FAA: First drone testing site ready

Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Monday that its first site for testing the possibility to allowing non-military drones to fly alongside commercial airplanes is ready to go.

The site, in North Dakota, is one of six that are expected to be used by the FAA to test the impact of the operation of drones on commercial flights.

The FAA is scheduled to test drones in North Dakota for two years. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised the state for quickly approving a test site for drones.

“North Dakota has really taken the lead in supporting the growing unmanned aircraft industry,” Foxx said in a statement. “We look forward to the contributions they and the other test sites will make toward our efforts to ensure the safe and efficient integration of UAS into our nation’s skies.”
 
The FAA is under pressure to approve the use of commercial drones quickly.

Congress has required the agency to develop a plan for boosting the use of drones in the U.S. by 2015, and online companies like Amazon are clamoring for the availability to use drones to speed up delivery times.

The agency has shut down operations by groups as varied as an Internet beer company and the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team in recent months.

The technology originally was being sought by police and other law enforcement groups. It has drawn criticism from privacy advocates who raised concerns about increased surveillance, however.

The FAA has said any of its potential test sites would have to have a plan to protect the privacy of nearby citizens.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Monday that the North Dakota tests would help pave the way for increased drone use in the U.S.

“These data will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS,” Huerta said in a statement. “We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.”