If you wanted to learn how commercial drones will assimilate into U.S. skies, where would you test them? The Federal Aviation Administration is already experimenting with drone integration at four different sites located in Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas. On Thursday, it named a fifth state in which to begin testing: New York.
About four hours north of Manhattan sits the small city of Rome, New York, where the FAA will begin using unmanned aircraft in “agricultural applications” to test their safety, feasibility, and other potential applications. Currently drone use for commercial purposes is prohibited by the FAA.
“The safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace is our number one priority,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “but agricultural research performed in Rome also may have far-reaching benefits to farmers in New York and across the nation.”
As prices continue to drop, hobby drones in New York are surging in popularity, and regulators are having a difficult time keeping pace with the technology. Drones do, of course, present a danger; learning how to use one is mostly through trial and error.
“Right now, unlike a manned-aircraft pilot who can get a license from the FAA, there’s no official training program for small drones,” Brendan M. Schulman, a lawyer in Manhattan who represents a number of drone operators and enthusiasts, told the New York Times. “What you’re seeing is popularity because they don’t require any particular expertise to get going. What you’re seeing is people buying these devices off the shelf and operating them without any experience or training because they’re easy to use.”