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FAA approves first drones for commercial operations in US airspace

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Insitu's Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment's Puma (above) are the first UAVs to snag FAA approval for commercial operations, and they're set to take to the skies later this summer. Prior to this, the only way the private sector could fly an unmanned vessel in US airspace was with an experimental airworthiness certification -- and that cert prohibits business activities. It's worth noting that these craft weigh less than 55 pounds and measure four and a half feet long; they aren't Predator drones, by any means.

Come August, a "major energy company" will use the X200 to patrol the Alaskan coast, keeping an eye on ice floes and migrating whales where the firm is doing petroleum exploration. Plans for the Puma sound slightly more action-packed, as it's expected to support oil spill emergency response-crews and watch over wildlife in the Beaufort Sea. See, this is how it all begins: First we start trusting them with our lives, then it all takes a turn for the worse.

[Image credit: Wikimedia Commons]

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