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Expansion of Police Drone Use Could Boost Space Coast Economy

February 18, 2013 | WMFE - Unmanned Aircraft Systems, commonly called drones, are a controversial topic nationwide. Law enforcement agencies, including the Orange County Sheriff's Office, generally like the small unmanned planes. Orange County recently purchased two of the small aircraft for about $25,000 dollars each. Civil liberties groups worry the drones could be misused and could infringe on citizen privacy. But law enforcement officials say the drones would not be used for spying on citizens and could be very useful in a specific emergency such as a hostage or terrorism crisis. Congress is discussing the issue this week and if the drones do become more common, it could be a boost for the economy on the Space Coast.

Members of the House Science Oversight Committee spoke to industry experts including the Federal Aviation Administration, law enforcement officials and  NASA, about how best to implement the Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones, into U.S. airspace. 

Congressman Dan Maffei, a Democrat from upstate New York, says drones are going to be part of the American future.

“Whether we like it or not, for better or for worse, this technology is here, and it’s not going away.”

Last year, the FAA was ordered to incorporate unmanned aerial systems in to US skies by 2015. 

Karlin Toner, with the Federal Aviation Administration, says the agency is currently scouting nationwide for sites to conduct research on drone technology.

“Once the sites are selected, which will be later this year,” Toner said.  “We expect to learn how UAS craft operate in the different environments and how they impact air traffic operations.”

Florida officials are hoping the Space Coast will be one of those sites and Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, is planning a $1.4 million dollar sales pitch including plans to use the Kennedy Space Center for testing. 

The FAA said it will decide on those locations later this year. 



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