Pushing for Domestic Use of Drones

FAA predicts 30,000 drones could be in United States airspace in 20 years, despite safety concerns.

November 29, 2012
Manufacturing Group
Assembly Industry News Materials

Skies over the United States could be flooded with 30,000 drones in less than 20 years, according to estimates from the Federal Aviation Administration.

That number might seem surpising, especially since many of the safety issues associated with drones have yet to be solved. For example, drones cannot sense and avoid objects the same way manned aircrafts can. There are also concerns over national security, privacy, and signal interferences.

Despite these concerns, UAV manufacturers are pushing hard for the domestic use of drones. Passed in February, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was backed by drone manufacturers, requires the FAA to fully integrate UAVs by 2015, and members of Congress are helping to speed up the process.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a 60-member House of Representatives' caucus has received nearly $8 million in drone-related contributions. The most contribution money went to 11 members from California, receiving more than $2.4 million during the 2012 and 2010 elections; eight Texas members got more than $746,000; and five members from New York got more than $400,000.

Some members, like Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX, a co-chairman of the caucus says drones are useful for border control, search-and-rescue missions, and other safety uses.

Many drones used today are for military purposes, but some members of congress are worried that the UAVs could infringe on a person's privacy if their availability is not controlled. They also believe the government could use them for secret surveillance, and are pushing to restrict government and private uses of drones.

"The Constitution limits eavesdropping, snooping, and spying on American citizens," says Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.