Senate: Drones Need to Operate “Freely and Routinely” In U.S. | Secrecy News

The integration of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) needs to be expedited, the Senate Armed Services Committee said in its report on the FY2013 defense authorization bill last week.

“While progress has been made in the last 5 years, the pace of development must be accelerated; greater cross-agency collaboration and resource sharing will contribute to that objective,” the Committee said.

A provision of the bill would encourage greater collaboration on drone integration among the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA.

“Large number of UASs now deployed overseas may be returned to the United States as the conflict in Afghanistan and operations elsewhere wind down in coming years, and new UASs are under development.”

“Without the ability to operate freely and routinely in the NAS, UAS development and training– and ultimately operational capabilities– will be severely impacted,” the Committee report said.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to the 2013 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would prohibit DHS from acquiring or flying drones that have weapons onboard.

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the purchase, operation, or maintenance of armed unmanned aerial vehicles,” says the provision sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).

This prohibition, which is limited to DHS, is likely to be of no practical significance.  “Has there ever been any plan to buy armed drones by Homeland Security?” asked Rep. Norm Dicks on the House floor yesterday.  “No,” replied Rep. Robert Aderholt.

Also yesterday, Rep. Scott Austin (R-GA) introduced a bill (HR 5925) “to protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones.”

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