The Coolest Planes You'll Never Fly

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Dream all you want, the most sophisticated hardware coming off the line these days doesn't need you, unless you're good with a remote. Bell Helicopter announced earlier this week that its tiltrotor Eagle Eye TR918unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has received FAA certification. It's the first such aircraft to get the FAA nod and we have to agree with Bell that the mind boggles at the possibilities for commercial and military uses. The Eagle Eye will be tested at Bell's new XworX facility in "West Texas." And while the technology and capabilities of unmanned aircraft have grown exponentially in recent years, the regulatory environment remains conservative, something not even the wishes of a president can budge. President Bush recently told an audience in border-sensitive El Paso that "drones" would soon be patrolling the border in rural Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, perhaps reinforcing the dictum that everyone, absolutely everyone, should check with the FAA before saying such things. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) border patrols are happening in Arizona (and have nabbed about 1,000 illegal immigrants) because the appropriate restricted airspace is in place. At the moment, the FAA says UAVs can only operate where civilian aircraft are forbidden and there are no such restrictions above the New Mexico and Texas borders. Under increasing political pressure, the FAA says it hopes to have a plan to allow UAV patrols to mix safely with other traffic along the length of the border ready in about two months.