Unmanned aerial drone research is coming to several public universities, according to a recent announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The University of Alaska, Texas A&M — Corpus Christi and Virginia Tech are among the locations that were chosen for new research on the U.S. government’s unmanned aerial vehicle project. Researchers in Alaska will test the susceptibility of drones to extremely cold temperatures, while Virginia Tech will work on safety guidelines to be implemented if the use of drones becomes widespread, according to The Verge.
“Each site will have to comply with existing privacy laws, post a public plan for data use and retention, and perform annual reviews of privacy practices, which will be open for public comment,” reported Russell Brandom of The Verge.
That may not be enough to set privacy-conscious critics of the U.S. drone program at ease, given revelations about government agencies’ reliance on the technology to spy on American citizens accused of criminal activity. (RELATED: FBI letter to Rand Paul reveals drones used 10 times in US)
Drone technology also plays a significant role in the U.S.’s bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the targets are alleged terrorists, hundreds of civilians have been killed.
Still, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International — an organization that promotes drone development — praised the FAA announcement. The technology has the potential to seriously benefit the American economy, said AUVSI in a press release.
“From advancing scientific research and responding to natural disasters to locating missing persons and helping to fight wildfires, [unmanned aircraft systems] can save time, save money, and, most importantly, save lives,” said the press release. “Our hope is this will lead to the creation of more sites and eventually to full integration of UAS into our skies, which will help create lasting jobs and boost the U.S. economy.”
The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The potential market application of the drone program has been noted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who recently said that he expects his company to make deliveries via drone as soon as 2015. (RELATED: Amazon plans to use DRONES to deliver packages [VIDEO])