Drones in America: FAA Issues "Road Map" For Use

Nov 8, 2013 11:28 AM

November 8, 2013

(CBS News) Unmanned drone aircraft are best known for targeting terrorists in other countries, but the Federal Aviation Administration is offering what it calls a "road map" for drone use in the U.S.

Read the FAA Roadmap (pdf)
Special section: Drones take over

Businesses and government can't wait for the practice to take off.

Ben Gielow, general counsel for the International Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (what the industry calls drones) said, "This industry has a lot of potential promise."

In three years, the International Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems says it will be a $14 billion business. Drones could be used by farmers to monitor crops, real estate agents to advertise homes and police to track down fugitives.

"An unmanned aircraft system can do tasks right now that are either too dangerous, difficult or dull for a human," Gielow said.

Photo gallery: Drones on the horizon

Drones are currently banned in the U.S., unless granted specific permission by the FAA. But Congress directed the agency to open the skies to drones by September 2015. That deadline is not likely to be met because of safety and privacy concerns. This week, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a bill calling for drone regulations.

"We need to ensure that these drones take off with privacy protections attached to them," Markey said. "If it's being used in a way that allows drones to spy on families in their backyards, then that's not right."

In their "road map," the FAA says it will select six sites in the U.S. to test drone safety and how they will detect and avoid other aircraft. There will be safety standards for drone design and pilots will need to be certified. But in a statement the agency said, "The FAA's mission does not extend to regulating privacy."

The concern is that almost anyone with a few hundred bucks can make a drone.

When "CBS This Morning," profiled camera company GoPro, they attached one of their $200 mini cameras to a remote-control plane. It basically became a drone, recording crystal clear high-definition video. The FAA estimates that within five years, 7,500 commercial drones will be whizzing through the sky.

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