US airspace approved by congress for unmanned drones

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Tall's picture
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US airspace approved by congress for unmanned drones

How did I miss this???  It has passed the House and now the Senate. Last step is the president's signature.

Can it be stopped?

After five years of legislative struggling, 23 stopgap measures and a two-week shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, Congress finally has passed a bill aimed at prodding the nation's aviation system into a new high-tech era in which satellites are central to air traffic control and piloted planes share the skies with unmanned drones.

The bill, which passed the Senate 75-20 Monday, speeds the nation's switch from radar to an air traffic control system based on GPS technology. It also requires the FAA to open U.S. skies to drone flights within four years.

Final approval of the measure was marked by an unusual degree of bipartisan support despite labor opposition to a deal cut between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House on rules governing union organizing elections at airlines and railroads. The House had passed the bill last week, and it now goes to President Barak Obama for his signature.,0,3563340.story




Retha's picture
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Joined: Aug 13 2011
Posts: 67
Drone in Texas

Our county purchased a drone in November (with federal money) should be flying about now...

So, my guess is...too late to do anything....if 'they' want it, they'll do it.  It's already done here.

tom.'s picture
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Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 345
Tall wrote: Can it be
Tall wrote:

Can it be stopped?


A sizable coronal mass ejection should work ... or did you mean the FAA bill? 

Sounds like they run on a 2-stroke engine ... must be noisy little buggers

BSV's picture
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Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 170
Unmanned drones

Okay, let's look at this a little more closely. First of all, what is the difference between aerial surveillance from a manned aircraft and an unmanned drone? The answer: very little, if any at all. I'm assuming that a major concern here is that "drones" will make a difference.

Let's go further. What about satellite photos?  Whether we like it or not, we can be scrutinized from the sky. That has been a reality for a long time. Satellite photo resolution is astonishingly good. If you are hosting a barbecue on your back patio, a good satellite photo can show remarkable detail. If a photo taken from that distance is good, just imagine what a photo taken from an airplane could reveal. Add infrared capability and your privacy is effectively gone. This is reality; a done deal. It is probably not politically feasible to reverse it. And even if Congress could be persuaded to do so and the bill somehow got signed into law (doubtful), there would likely be exemptions "in the national interest for security reasons". In other words, forget it.

So what is the difference whether the aerial vehicle is manned or unmanned? Unmanned "drones" range from relatively low tech aircraft to highly sophisticated machines such as the fabled Predator employed by the U.S. military. When it comes to domestic (USA) use, drones can exist in harmony with manned aircraft as long as they are equipped with a transponder that lets air traffic control know their location and altitude. And by the way, "drones" usually (but not always)  have pilots, but the pilot is sitting in a control room some distance away from the aircraft.

What I'm trying to say here is that this battle has already been lost. Like it or not, our movements and everyday activities will increasingly be monitored by Big Brother. I suspect it will do little good to worry about this.

Now, as to the melding of satellite and radar technology for air traffic control purposes, this is a welcome and overdue step. The air traffic control system needs all the help it can get. It saves fuel for commercial aircraft to fly directly to their destinations instead of following defined high altitude jetways. In addition, it is probably safer.

Tall's picture
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Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
It has just gone so far so fast


When I first learned of this, I thought of how handy it is to now have devices approved that can deliver pepper spray over groups of protesters exercising first amendment rights without the pesky videos of police officers delivering the spray surfacing on the internet.

It is much easier to monitor individuals and their actions from above than from on the ground.  It just struck me as another tool for control of US citizens such as the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that allows for indefinite detention of Americans without charge.


crash_watcher's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 12 2008
Posts: 146
30,000 drones, for your safety


If the new bill becomes law, up to 30,000 drones could by flying in U.S. airspace by decade’s end. The Senate passed the bill by a 75-20 margin. Civil liberties groups have spoken out on the measure, stating the new legislation offers no restrictions on drone surveillance operations by police and federal agencies and could put us on track toward a “surveillance society.”

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I feel much safer knowing that there is nowhere I can go without being recorded and monitored by my friendly neighborhood drone(s).

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