Utah wants to be a drone test site

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to decide by the end of the month where it will begin testing airspace regulations for drones.

Utah is hoping to be one of the six chosen test sites.

"There are great civil and commercial applications for these systems," said Marshall Wright, the aerospace and defense cluster director for the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Utah is one of 24 states seeking to be a test site for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The FAA is developing regulations, and it wants test sites to conduct scenarios and experiments. Unmanned aircraft have been used primarily in the military. Most recently, Amazon announced it was exploring using drones to deliver packages.

"The FAA would like to get information out of these test sites as fast as they can, because what they want to do is normalize access for unmanned systems by 2015," Wright said.

Utah is offering several sites for potential FAA study: near Promontory Point in northern Utah; by Delta; outside Milford; and near Green River. The U.S. military is already conducting drone experiments over the Utah Test and Training Range in the West Desert.

Wright said becoming a test site could generate billions of dollars in economic revenue for Utah, as companies move in and develop unmanned aircraft (and ground-based unmanned vehicles).

"We projected that Utah, over a 10-year period, could have something like 10,000 direct jobs resulting from the economic impact of this," he told FOX 13 News. "This is enormous."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah expressed concerns about the privacy aspect of the drone experiments across the state.

"If we become a test site, there's going to be an increased number of drones flying around our state, and people are going to be concerned when they see these drones circling about them," said Marina Lowe, the legislative and policy analyst for the ACLU of Utah.

The ACLU of Utah sits on an advisory committee created by Gov. Gary Herbert to look at development of unmanned aircraft. Lowe said right now, Utah has no laws that deal with drones and privacy.

Lawmakers have looked at the issue recently, but no legislation has been proposed. The ACLU said it would like to see some legislation in place protecting privacy.

"It's not necessarily a problem that the state of Utah is moving forward with trying to be a test site designation," said Lowe. "What we would like to see, however, is that we also try to put in place some very real privacy protections."


  • nicklepp

    Reblogged this on Shock and Awe and commented:
    I’m not sure why anyone wants to be the site of drone testing. It only legitimizes their usage domestically, which can only lead to bad things. I’m more concerned about the government eventually instilling attack drones domestically, but there are certainly surveillance concerns as well. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.

  • James Paul

    The sky over Utah and Salt Lake counties has been full of them nightly for at least a couple of months.
    I have seen as many as 9 at one time in a small area of the S.E. sky over Orem.
    They are based at UVU/Provo airport.

  • Brian Michael Owens

    Seems about right that the government would choose the states with the most gun owners in it first. Utah is #4 in the country for Gun owners and Gun rights.

    ((((((((NSA NOTE – I DON’T CARE IF YOU READ THIS POST))))))))))

  • Trish Ramirez

    It makes a lot of sense – I would imagine a lot of the tech was developed out in Dugway. Geographically they could test them close to ‘home.’ Definitely not good for individual privacy rights, though. It’s almost like a middle finger to those people around here who have so vehemently opposed federal gun restrictions and encroachments by the federal government onto state and individual Constitutional rights. Citizens absolutely dislike and distrust this technology and everything it represents – sure it will bring jobs, but at what cost with regard to individual liberty? Is that something we as a community are willing to sacrifice in for the sake of bringing more money into the state? Ultimately people won’t have much of a choice – this is likely already a done deal and they are just softening people up for the inevitable with these stories so we’re not taken by surprise when the sight and sound of drones overhead becomes commonplace. You know, there is a town in Colorado that is voting on a measure to put a bounty on shooting down government drones? People don’t like this…

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