The U.S. government this week approved unmanned aircraft tests for six states of the 24 that wanted to be in the program, Reuters reports, with drone testing expected to cover a variety of uses, including Amazon’s proposed Prime Air shipping solution. The FAA’s chosen sites for drone tests include Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. Of those, North Dakota has already contacted Amazon to propose testing.
“We said: ‘We’d love to help you bring your vision to fruition,'” Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority director Bob Becklund said about the conversation he had with the company, “They said: ‘We’ll keep your number on file,’” he added.
Global spending on drones is expected to double to $11.6 billion by 2013, according to the Teal Group research firm, while The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that the drone business could create more than 100,000 jobs and contribute more than $80 billion to the U.S. economy over ten years.
However, it’s not going to be smooth flying for Amazon and for anyone interested in developing their U.S. drones program, as there are several privacy and security concerns the FAA will have to address during those tests before companies can begin deploying their unmanned aircraft fleets. Since 2012, 42 states have considered drone restrictions because of privacy and safety concerns, with eight of them passing laws on it, and most states requiring warrants in order for aerial video surveillance to be used in criminal cases.
The FAA will have to develop a written policy on privacy and to address potential safety matters, with the first rules expected to be released in early 2014. The first test site is estimated to open in six months, with drones expected to be tested in “small civil applications.” Tests will then continue at least until February 2017.