FAA says sheriff needs permit to fly drone

June 22, 2006 at 11:06 PM

LOS ANGELES, June 22 (UPI) -- Federal regulators say the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department should have sought takeoff clearance before showing off a new drone for the press.

"I wouldn't want to term us as peeved, but we were definitely surprised," Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told The Los Angeles Times.

The SkySeer, a large remote-controlled model airplane, has been in development for seven years. Sheriff Lee Baca said the drones can provide aerial views needed for crowd control, chases, hostage situations and other information, more cheaply than a helicopter -- and without the noise and risk.

The Sheriff's Department is a bit miffed by the FAA attitude.

"A private citizen can go to the store and buy one of those model airplanes and fly them around," said Commander Sid Head. "But because we're doing it as a public service, we have to deal with the FAA?"

The SkySeer is still being tested. If the craft proves airworthy, the department plans to buy 20 drones at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000 each. The drones are 3 feet long and have a 6 ½-foot wingspan -- basically large high-tech model airplanes, the newspaper said.

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