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Orlando LE - Test drones could soon be flying over Florida

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 4th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Drones have been used to kill hundreds, even thousands, of suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, now may be patrolling the skies over Florida and, perhaps soon, the rest of the United States.

ORLANDO, FL (Catholic Online) - Instead of launching missiles, however, domestically flown drones could be used for aerial photography to helping law-enforcement. They could also be used for clandestine surveillance, which would trigger privacy concerns from civil-rights advocates who worry about spying on law-abiding citizens.

The Federal Aviation Administration is creating rules, that by 2015, should safely determine how drones can share airspace with an estimated 340,000 commercial and private airplanes every day, nationwide.

Jim Kuzma, chief operating officer for Space Florida, a Cape Canaveral-based space-development agency, estimated that 50 companies in Florida, alone, are involved with manufacturing drones. Drone testing done in the state could help create a lot of jobs and help the state expand in the industry. The drone industry is worth almost $6 billion and is likely to double in value by 2021, due to its expected expansion in the civilian economy.

Drones, or known as unmanned-aircraft systems (UAS), can be as small as a hummingbird to ones with wingspans that are as large as Boeing 737's, and can cost from thousands to millions of dollars each. For example, the armed Predator drones, operating in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, are a little bigger than a two-seat, single-propeller Cessna, and cost about $4 million each.

Although the American Civil Liberties Union is afraid that drones could possibility invade the privacy rights of people, as it can operate for hours, can transmit huge amounts of data, and is virtually impossible to detect, Kuzma said privacy worries can be overcome

"This is very powerful," Kuzma said. "We want Florida to be at the leading edge of this."

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