Should Drones Be Allowed Across U.S. Skies?

The pros and cons of opening airspace to unmanned aircraft

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The same type of unmanned drones used in Afghan and Pakistani war zones may be coming to the U.S. According to the Associated Press, industry groups and conservative politicians in Texas are pressuring the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the legality of drones in the U.S. The proposed uses include law enforcement (e.g. patrolling borders and spotting drug smugglers) and civilian functions. Here are the pros and cons.

  • Drones Offer Quite a Lot, writes Noel Brinkerhoff at AllGov: "The ability of the pilotless aircraft to fly up to 20 hours at a time makes them attractive to law enforcement. Other proponents of drones include tornado researchers who want to send them into storms to gather data; energy companies seeking to monitor pipelines; and police pursuing suspects in cars." There are other advantages too, adds Soda Head News: " They come in a variety of sizes, from jumbo jet to tiny ones that could fit through a window and they can do the dangerous, dirty jobs humans would rather avoid. Plus, they cost less to keep in the air than piloted planes."
  • There Are Some Pressing Concerns Though, writes Joan Lowy at The Associated Press: "The FAA’s... afraid that the unmanned drones might crash into cargo planes, airliners and corporate jets at high altitudes, or hot air balloons and helicopters closer to the ground. It also worries about loss of communication and the lack of warning systems and transponders."
  • Safety Comes First, says Hank Krakowski, the head of the FAA's air traffic operations: "I think industry and some of the operators are frustrated that we're not moving fast enough, but safety is first... This isn't Afghanistan. This isn't Iraq. This is a part of the world that has a lot of light airplanes flying around, a lot of business jets."
  • U.S. Should Approve Drones on a Narrow Basis, writes The Advertiser-Tribune: "There's no reason the agency can't expand the use of drones for border patrol or allow the Coast Guard to use them for search-and-rescue missions. We recommend authorities consider gradually expanding the roles that unmanned aircraft can perform. That way, safety concerns can be assessed and addressed before allowing more duties."
  • That Could Happen Next Year, writes Jason Paur at Wired: "The FAA says it will propose new rules for smaller unmanned aircraft like the ScanEagle sometime early next year. These smaller aircraft could be used for security, border patrol and civilian tasks like pipeline inspections, monitoring forest fires and weather observations."
  • Exit Quip  "Think of how great car chase videos will be when we can watch criminals not simply get pulled over, but explode into a ball of flame on the freeway! Pure entertainment," writes Jeff Neumann at Gawker.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.