Calif. not among states picked to test drones

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WASHINGTON — After a fierce nationwide competition that offers potentially big economic benefits for the winners, six sites were selected Monday for testing of how drones can be more widely used in U.S. airspace.

DronesJustSayNoThe Federal Aviation Administration announced the selection of sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

California, vying to become the Silicon Valley of robotic aircraft, was among the losers in the 24-state competition.

“These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement.

In 2012, Congress directed the FAA to draw up rules for incorporating the remotely piloted aircraft in U.S. airspace by 2015.

FfaaAA Administrator Michael Huerta has estimated that 7,500 small drones could be aloft within five years.

The remotely piloted aircraft could be used for activities such as spotting wildfires, helping police track criminal suspects, scouting film locations and inspecting pipelines.

California was thought to be a favorite in the competition, considering it is home to the nation’s major drone makers, such as AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of Poway, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., which builds drones in Palmdale.

Huerta said in a call with reporters that the agency considered  factors such as geographic and climatic diversity, availability of ground infrastructure, the type of proposed research, the aviation experience of the applicants and the volume of air traffic near the test sites.


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