Indiana Among States Competing For UAV Testing License

While proponents say the idea could bring jobs and money to the state, those against it worry about the safety risks.

BAE unmanned drone

Photo: BAE Systems

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with SpaceAge Control air data probe mounted.

Indiana is among several states competing for a license to test unmanned aerial vehicles. While proponents say the idea could bring jobs and money to the state, those against it worry about the safety risks.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to choose six teams from across the country to test and develop unmanned aerial systems, commonly called drones, for the civilian market.

Indiana is considered in some ways to be an optimal drone testing location given its established defense infrastructure, most notably the facilities at Crane, Grissom Air Reserve Base, and Camp Atterbury.

Richard Baker is a professor at Indiana State University’s Unmanned Systems department. He says testing the drones will determine if and how they will be able to share airspace with planes.

“And the complexities come about by the fact that there are so many different sizes and so many different uses and it’s not as easy as just saying how we’re going to incorporate one new aircraft,” Baker says.

Drones have long been used in the military, but it’s estimated that the civilian drone market could be a multi-billion dollar industry.

State Senator Jim Tomes sponsored a bill that would cut public funding to drones and make it illegal to monitor people with drones. He urges people to use caution and consider the potential safety risks.

“If something fails on that, and these are electronics and electronics do fail whether it be in the control room or the craft itself, they’ll fall wherever they want to,” Tomes says. “And I just don’t want to read stories about one of these falling out of the sky in a school play ground or out on the interstate or in somebody’s back yard or something like that.”

The FAA will select the six testing sites choices by the end of the year.

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