derekmead writes "Drones are already being tested in civilian airspace, and they're about to become a lot more popular. The first major milestone of the FAA’s Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (.pdf) says that within 90 days of passagethe agency has to permit “local government and public safety agencies” to fly drones that exceed neither 4.4 pounds nor 400-foot altitudes.President Obama signed the $63 billion funding bill Feb. 14, which means the 90 days are now up.
So-called civilian drones are becoming big, big business. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a drone industry lobbying group that boasts over 500 corporate members in 55 countries, took credit for language responsible for the FAA’s expedited approval of agencies that are eager to build up drone fleets beginning this year. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly 50 companies are tinkering on some 150 different civilian unmanned systems, from micro drones to airliner-sized giants, all specifically designed to carry surveillance gear, not explosives. Some estimates have the American drone market in 2016 pulling down $6 billion in sales. So, too, will it come as no great shock to hear theFAAgot it together for today’s deadline."
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