FAA takes step toward widespread US drone flights

Associated Press
This September 2011 photo provided by Vanguard Defense Industries, shows a ShadowHawk drone with Montgomery County, Texas, SWAT team members. In a major step toward opening U.S. skies to thousands of unmanned drones, federal officials Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, solicited proposals to create six drone test sites around the country. The FAA has granted several hundred permits to universities, police departments and other government agencies to use small, low-flying drones. For example, the sheriff’s department in Montgomery County, Texas, has a 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone intended to supplement its SWAT team. (AP Photo/Lance Bertolino, Vanguard Defense Industries)
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This September 2011 photo provided by Vanguard Defense Industries, shows a ShadowHawk drone with Montgomery County, Texas, SWAT team members. In a major step toward opening U.S. skies to thousands of unmanned drones, federal officials Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, solicited proposals to create six drone test sites around the country. The FAA has granted several hundred permits to universities, police departments and other government agencies to use small, low-flying drones. For example, the sheriff’s department in Montgomery County, Texas, has a 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone intended to supplement its SWAT team. (AP Photo/Lance Bertolino, Vanguard Defense Industries)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A future in which unmanned drones are as common in U.S. skies as helicopters and airliners has moved a step closer to reality with a government request for proposals to create six drone test sites around the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration made the request Thursday, kicking off what is anticipated to be an intense competition between states hoping to win one of the sites.

The military has come to rely heavily on drones overseas. Possible users at home include police, power companies wanting to monitor transmission lines, farmers needing to detect which crops need water or even ranchers counting cows.

Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a "surveillance society" in which Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.

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