According to the chief of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), during the next five years we could see as many as 7,500 commercial drones patrolling U.S. airspace.
In preparation, the FAA is setting up six drone testing sites across the country, where drone operators can obtain certificates to operate unmanned aircraft. To date, over 80 state and local law enforcement agencies already operate unmanned aircraft under these special certificates of authorization.
The news comes at a time when our privacy rights are being attacked at every level.
In Senate testimony earlier this year, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, admitted the agency already has a fleet of drones that it uses to spy on the American public. A month earlier, the Department of Homeland Security started purchasing their own fleet of militarized Predator B Drones that will be deployed throughout the United States.
Even federal agencies like the EPA are getting in on the action.
Last June, after finding out the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been spying on local farmers, Nebraskan lawmakers demanded the EPA put an immediate stop to the program. The EPA later confirmed the drone flights, saying they were looking for farmers who were violating the Clean Water Act.
By the end of this year, the FAA is scheduled to choose the six test sites. By 2015, commercial operators are expected to be able to fly their drones through U.S. Airspace. Twenty-four states — including California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona — have applied to host the tests.