Eye in the Sky

It seems like drones are everywhere now. They started decades ago as a military tool, but today drones are very much a part of the commercial sector, creating a broad array of serious and novel regulatory challenges for the government. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) began as military projects, used for reconnaissance as far back as the Vietnam War. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, drones became a deeply integrated part of American force projection, no longer used just for surveillance, but also armed and able to strike terrorists. Now, drone technology has extended into the commercial sector and into the hands of private individuals. It is possible to buy a drone on the Internet for less than $50. This affordability has caused the market for drones to expand very quickly.

The rapid growth of the drone market has spread to a variety of new sectors. Amazon wants to use drones as delivery and logistics platforms. The videography industry has tapped into drone technology for filming everything from advertisements, to movies, to television, to news segments. There are some innovative agricultural applications for drone technology as well. Farmers can use small, cheap drones to monitor their crops, deliver pesticides in a more targeted manner, and gather data to enable more efficient use of resources in order to improve crop yields. Law enforcement agencies have also been using drones extensively. They help track fugitives, carry out search and rescue operations, watch the borders, and monitor animal populations to help fight illegal poaching activities.

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