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Senator sees potential in unmanned drones

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:56 pm

A Boise lawmaker wants Idaho to be a player in the market for unmanned aerial drones.

Sen. Chuck Winder introduced a resolution Thursday encouraging the Department of Commerce to work with the University of Idaho, Boise State University and other stakeholders and submit a proposal for one of six unmanned aerial vehicle test sites.

The Federal Aviation Administration was tasked by Congress two years ago with designating the sites. They're intended to help the agency develop the regulations and operating procedures needed to integrate unmanned aircraft into the North American airspace.

The agency was supposed to start accepting proposals last year, but didn't meet the deadline.

There's clearly some urgency to get ourselves in the queue and prepare to move forward,” Winder said.

Idaho has great potential as a test site, he said, both because the Idaho National Laboratory already does some development work with unmanned aircraft and because its landscape is so open.

About a year ago a couple of residents of my district, two Air Force officers, came to me and talked about an idea they had for developing this industry and creating jobs,” Winder said. “They have great insights into the applications of unmanned aircraft – perhaps in agriculture, perhaps in fire-fighting or the delivery of emergency medical service. I think there's lots of potential for the future.”

Winder also introduced a companion bill that would prohibit unmanned aircraft from being used to conduct surveillance, except with permission of the landowner or by law enforcement agencies acting under a court order.

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