One day, drones will be flying overhead... and it will be normal. But, right now, concern over the safety of allowing unmanned aircraft to roam freely in our airspace outweighs their groovy future potential. Which is why the FAA today, following a mandate by Congress, has selected six test sites around the US for the purpose of studying UAS (unmanned aircraft) and eventually integrating them safely into our heavily trafficked skies. Research on UAS will now be carried out at facilities operated by The University of Alaska, Texas A&M University, the state of Nevada (an obvious choice, really), North Dakota's Department of Commerce, New York's Griffiss International Airport and Virginia Tech -- all chosen for their geographical and climatic diversity.
Each partner will carry out testing in key research areas highlighted by the FAA: sense and avoid, command and control, ground control station standards and human factors, airworthiness, lost link procedures and interface with air traffic control. The results of which will go towards developing regulations for "commercial and civil use" (yes, you will one day own and operate a drone). But just because the FAA's given a greenlight to further UAS testing, that doesn't mean you'll see drones whizzing about in our skies anytime soon. The agency's stressed that this is just a test and not an invitation to tempt fate in our national airspace system.