U.S. skies to be opened to drones

Feb. 18, 2012 at 5:05 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A new federal law allows commercial drones to fly over the United States by late 2015, officials said.

The drone language was included in a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration signed Tuesday by President Obama, The New York Times reported.

The bill requires the FAA to allow law enforcement agencies to use drones that weigh no more than 4.4 pounds and fly no higher than 400 feet within 90 days. It requires the agency to adopt rules allowing for the "safe integration" of drones into U.S. airspace by Sept. 30, 2015.

Drones have already been used for a wide variety of commercial purposes. Daniel Garate was making money producing aerial footage of properties for sale for real estate agents until the Los Angeles police warned him off.

Cy Brown of Bunkie, La., developed what he calls a Dehogaflier -- a model airplane with a heat-sensing camera he uses to find feral pigs on his brother's rice farm. Drones have also been used to check for leaks in irrigation systems.

The American Civil Liberties Union worries that the bill contains no privacy language and suggests steps must be taken to provide guidelines for "routine aerial surveillance."

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