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Tens of thousands of drones are already in use in the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Drones, unmanned aircraft that stealthily hover over areas usually to record activity strike fear in the hearts of many Americans. For these people, the drones are like an all-seeing "Big Brother" eye that records every action. What is not generally well known is that drones are already being used across the U.S. in civilian capacities.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Drones currently hover Hollywood film sets, professional sports events, track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California.

In law enforcement, the drones also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.

Drones currently in civilian use fly through U.S. skies, disregarding tight federal restrictions on drone use that require even the police and the military to get special permits.

Domestic drones are poised for widespread expansion into U.S. airspace once regulation catches up with reality. In late 2015, the U.S. government will begin issuing commercial drone permits.

"Commercially, the culture already exists," Ben Miller, a Mesa County, Colorado, sheriff's deputy says. Miller has been flying drones with special authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration since 2009.

"Turn on your TV and pay close attention to major sports events. You'll see that in many cases they are getting aerial shots using a UAS (unmanned aerial system). I would venture to say that if you've seen an action movie in the last five years, chances are that a UAS was used."

Federal legislation enacted last year requires the FAA to prepare a plan to open U.S. skies in 2015 to widespread use of unmanned aircraft by public agencies and private industry.

Those fields most likely to use drones include agriculture, shipping, oil exploration, commercial fishing, major league sports, film and television production, environmental monitoring, meteorological studies, law enforcement and the news media.

The aviation and aerospace industry research firm Teal Group has estimated that global spending on unmanned aircraft will double over the next 10 years, to nearly $90 billion, with the U.S. accounting for 62 percent of research and development spending and 55 percent of procurement spending.

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