Texas A&M University is testing to see the safety of commercial drones
4:50 PM, Jan 16, 2014
(NBC News) Texas A&M University completed some of the first official drone test flights around the country Thursday as part of the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to study the safety of commercial drones.
Researchers flew drones over the Gulf of Mexico in one of the year's first official test flights.
The state is one of six test locations named late last year by the F.A.A.
New York, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada and Virginia are the other locations.
"The test sites what they form is the basis and platform for developing a focal environment. To make decisions about how we develop these safely into our air system," said F.A.A. Administrator Michael Huerta.
In a hearing yesterday, the head of the F.A.A. described some key concerns to lawmakers like mid-air collisions and pilot training.
Seven thousand five hundred unmanned aircraft could take flight over the next five years.
That's potentially big money to businessmen like James Grimsley who is hoping to market the devices to other companies.
"It can do those things that humans really don't like to do. We can do them a lot more cheaply," said Grimsley.
Privacy advocates are also closely watching the test sites.
"The technology isn't bad. But the technology makes it easier to do bad things," said the Director of the Domestic Surveillance Project EPIC Amie Stephanovich.
The concern is that without strict regulation consumer's rights to privacy could be invaded.
These test sites will continue through at least February 2017 but Congress has directed the F.A.A to open the skies for commercial drones much sooner.