FAA bill opens doors for unmanned aircraft

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photo courtesy University of North Dakota

North Dakota could receive one of six unmanned aircraft research centers mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill passed by Congress this week.

The new centers were part of several provisions in the bill that will affect the use of unmanned aircraft.

The bill allows law enforcement agencies that meet requirements to fly very small unmanned aircraft, about four pounds or less, within 90 days of the bill being signed into law.

The bill directs the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national air space within nine months, and to fully integrate unmanned aircraft into the national air space by September, 2015.

The FAA must establish the unmanned aircraft research centers within six months.

Many businesses, from oil and gas to agriculture are waiting for permission to use

unmanned aircraft for a variety of tasks.

The FAA still needs to prove unmanned aircraft can operate safely while sharing airspace with manned aircraft, a big concern for many general aviation pilots. The technology to accomplish that integration is still being developed.

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