Dozens of state law-enforcement agencies and universities have been flying and experimenting with drones throughout U.S. airspace, according to Freedom of Information Act requests obtained by advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. The data highlights widening applications of drones in domestic skies and the growing interest in unmanned technology in research laboratories.
Cities and municipalities with active authorizations to fly drones include the Ogden Police Department in Utah, the Mesa County Sheriff's office in Colorado and the Polk County Sheriff's office in Florida. The Otter Tail County in Minn., and Georgia Tech Police Department had applied for an authorization, but had been rejected, according to collated Google Maps data.
The list of educational institutions that have been testing unmanned aerial vehicles include Cornell University, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech and Eastern Gateway Community College.
The documents also offers insights into drones tested by manufacturers and contractors such as Raytheon and Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. The requested records provide registration numbers, which when plugged into flight tracker FlightAware, spits out data about engine specifications and when the authorizations were issued.
The findings come as the FAA is gearing up to integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015. Members of Congress on Friday voiced concerns about the privacy implications of this move, and called for information on whether agency was working to address this. Read NextGov editor at large Bob Brewin's take on the EFF's findings.