Unmanned aircraft: Game of drones

DEEP in the bowels of the engineering building at Oklahoma State University, Ben Loh flips a switch on a remote control. A rotor starts whirring and a white sphere the size of a large beach ball rises. Mr Loh navigates it around the room, then lands it and rolls it across the floor.The flying sphere, on which Mr Loh holds four patents, is mainly intended for use in rescue missions: equip it with a camera and a GPS device, fly it through the window of a burning building, then have it roll around hallways seeking survivors and sounding an alarm when it finds one. Mr Loh’s invention may not fit the popular conception of a drone, as it does not rain havoc on terrorists (and others) in the Afghan hinterlands, but more than any fighting machine it represents the future of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).Commercial use of drones is banned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), although it makes some exceptions such as for hobbyists’ flights in unpopulated areas where the aircraft stays in sight of a human operator. But the skies are opening up: by the end of December the FAA will select six UAS testing sites from a list of 25 applicants in 24 states (California submitted two). These sites will help the FAA understand how to integrate UAS into American airspace, which Congress has told it to do by September 2015 (some are sceptical that it will hit that mark). In 2014 rules…

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/business/21591862-some-see-privacy-threats-civilian-drones-others-see-profits-game-drones?fsrc=rss|bus

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