You may soon see drones flying in the United States.
They’ve been used in warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, and Libya, and also for spying and surveillance.
They can be equipped with high power zoom lenses and do infrared imaging.
They are about to become very common in the United States.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US military had about 50 drones, but as the war in Afghanistan and other places progressed, that number increased to about 7,500.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, or P.L. 112-95, was signed into law by the President on February 14, 2012. Part of this law allows the FAA to switch air traffic control systems from radar to GPS.
Another part provides rules and guidelines for unmanned drones to be in the US skies by 2015.
Parts of the timeline are:
- May 14, 2012 – Expedite the licensure (of drones)
- August 12, 2012 – Early integration of “safe” drones (determine if certain types can fly in national airspace)
- November 10, 2012 – Development of a comprehensive plan
- February 14, 2013 – Deadline for comprehensive plan – 5 year road map
- August 14, 2014 – Final rule for non-government drones
- December 14, 2015 – Final rule to implement comprehensive plan
The FAA reportedly has 63 launch sites across the United States.
The FAA has also issued temporary licenses to more than 300 law enforcement agencies and research institutions, to fly the drones.
There’s an estimate that there may be 30,000 drones flying in US skies by the end of the decade.
Most of these are very small – about the size of a toy RF helicopter.
Some good uses of these are to search for missing children and adults, checking out a natural disaster area that doesn’t provide access, or testing for damage to a nuclear power plant.
A sheriff’s office in central Florida spent about $25,000 a piece for drones made by a company called Draganfly (not a misprint).
They picked a model that can be equipped with a digital camera with a zoom lens, or a thermal imaging camera.
Thermal imaging detects infrared radiation, which is emitted by all objects and people (above zero degrees). This means you can see people, buildings, etc. without visible illumination. Humans and animals stand out against buildings and cooler objects.
The Miami Dade police department also plans on using drones (see video below).
The use of drones probably isn’t going to stop, because there’s money involved. Even the small drones the police departments are using, that look like toy remote control helicopters, can cost up to about $40,000.
The Department of Homeland Security is making grants available to these police departments to purchase the drones.
Even the new FAA laws might not be able to keep up with the technology.
There’s going to be a lot of controversy surrounding drone use, and privacy concerns.
People are wondering if they’re going to be spied on all the time. Real live pilots are wondering if they’re going to be crashing into drones! Some real estate agents (and hobbyists taking nature and wildlife pictures) that have been using these to take aerial photos of properties, wonder if the FAA is going to severely restrict their use.
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