Feds are flying drones in the Nevada desert

Amazon.com

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday announced it has established a third testing site for the use of commercial drones in American airspace. 



Tests are being conducted at the Desert Rock Airport in Mercury, Nev., with a drone known as the Insitu ScanEagle, the agency said. The aircraft is being flow at altitudes below 3,000 feet.

The FAA had already established two other drone testing sites in North Dakota and Alaska.

ADVERTISEMENT
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Nevada was a natural location for conducting more of the trial flights.

“Nevada has been on the leading edge of aerospace flight testing for almost 70 years,” Foxx said in a statement. “Today, the state continues that tradition by contributing to the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system.”

The FAA is under heavy pressure to approve the use of commercial drones, with private companies such as Amazon clamoring to use them for deliveries and other tasks.

Congress has required the FAA to develop a plan for boosting the use of drones in the U.S. by 2015. The FAA is planning to test the interaction between drones and other types of airplanes at six sites across the country between now and then.

The agency has shut down drone operations in the meantime that were being conducted by groups as varied as an Internet beer company and the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team.

Police and other law enforcement groups originally sought the technology. Privacy advocates have raised concerns about increased surveillance, however, and are warning the FAA to tread carefully.

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 drone testing was going as planned.

“The UAS test sites will help us identify operational goals as well as safety issues we must consider when expanding the use of unmanned aircraft into our airspace,” Huerta said in a statement. “This industry is growing exponentially, and we are working hard to make sure it does so safely.”