The FAA may be planning rulemaking that will allow the use of non-military unmanned aerial vehicles in civilian airspace, according to USA Today. The newspaper quotes FAA spokesman Les Dorr as saying the proposed rules could be released this year and a public comment period will be included. He also told USA Today that the agency is talking with the Justice Department and national law enforcement groups "about possibly trying to streamline the process of applying for certificates of authorization" for operation of drones. The proposed rule appears to be limited to the use of small drones by law enforcement agencies, who are reportedly itching to get their hands on the eyes in the sky.
Veterans returning from the Gulf theater, who have seen firsthand how effective the drones can be, are finding work with law enforcement agencies and are apparently the impetus behind the drone initiatives. The FAA has permitted a couple of test projects by police in Houston and Miami but other than that drones have been limited to border patrols and restricted military airspace. In the police tests, drones were limited to a maximum altitude of 200 feet and 1,000-foot range from their operator. The lack of see-and-avoid capability is considered the greatest impediment to widespread drone use.