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NJ Selected As Testing Site For FAA Drone Mission

12-31-13

Desiree Taylor
Senior Correspondent

The military has been using drones for years, unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV’s. Now the United States government wants to expand the use of drones to include commercial and private use and New Jersey is among several selected nationwide.

“This is just a enormous opportunity for New Jersey, and the reality that Unmanned Aerial Systems, UAV’s, the technology is there to use them today but we haven’t figured out a way to safely integrate them into domestic airspace,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo.

Rutgers is partnering with Virginia Tech to conduct the research. Drone research is already underway at the FAA tech center in South Jersey. Companies like amazon have also been experimented with adapting drones for commercial purposes. LoBiondo believes the technology has immense possibilities.

“There’s an application for agriculture, there’s an application with medicine, application with law enforcement, disaster relief, all kinds of things,” said LoBiondo.

There are also economic benefits.

“They’re talking about billions of dollars of economic opportunity, thousands of jobs even if it’s only a fraction of that it’s big. But it puts us on the map, following through with the work we’re already doing here,” said LoBiondo.

The FAA expects there will 7,500 drones in U.S. airspace within five years.  Some privacy rights groups and residents have concerns about widespread use of them.  Critics fear they could be used to spy on Americans.

“It’s not constitutional and we’ll go to every effort we can to make sure there’s no abuse of that,” said LoBiondo. 

“It’s pretty scary but whatever, it’s science, it’s what is it is,” said James Staab, a Northfield resident.

“We have to keep up with technology but then there are concerns about accidents,” said Rashmi Mathur, a Northfield resident.

LoBiono believes south Jersey is an ideal location because it’s military and commercial airspace.

“Nobody has the two side by side so as this integration into domestic airspace takes place we can do testing under both scenarios,” said LoBiondo.

The first testing site will likely be up and running in about six months.