States competing for drones

first_imgInsitu founder speaks to lawmakers about dronesLOS ANGELES — It’s the land where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, where the space shuttle fleet rolled off the assembly line and where the first private manned rocketship climbed to space.Capitalizing on Southern California’s aerospace fortunes, two rival groups want to add another laurel: drone test range.They face crowded competition. In search of an economic boost, more than half the country is looking toward the sky — expected to be buzzing in the near future with pilotless aircraft.Before that can become reality, the Federal Aviation Administration last month put out a call to test fly drones at half a dozen to-be-determined sites before they can share the same space as commercial jetliners, small aircraft and helicopters.Fifty teams from 37 states — including Washington and Oregon — answered, vying to win bragging rights as a hub for unmanned aerial vehicles.The military has long flown drones overseas to support troops, spy on enemies and fire missiles. There’s a recent clamor to fly them domestically to track the health of crops, fight wildfires in remote terrain, conduct search and rescue after a disaster and perform other chores considered too “dirty, dull or dangerous” for pilots. The expanding use for drones comes amid concerns of a “Big Brother” society.The untapped civilian market — estimated to be worth billions — has created a face-off, with states perfecting their pitch — ample restricted airspace, industry connections, academic partners — not unlike what you might read in a tourism brochure.last_img

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