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May 30th, 2012 2:28 pm
State Governments Not Limiting Their Hunger for Drone Dollars

Salon highlights the combination of state-based interests lining-up to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to award it one of six licenses to operate a domestic drone test site.

The deal is this: Prove that drones – unmanned surveillance aircraft – can be operated safely in civilian airspace, and the FAA will remove regulatory barriers restricting where drones can fly.

By extension, locations with test sites will be positioned to become hubs for drone-related activity.

Salon notes that while states like Florida, Ohio, and Colorado have already pitched plans to the FAA to land a test site…

…the most fully developed proposals for running the test sites are likely to come from state consortiums of industry, government and universities, which will put up the money to run the sites. The FAA is not providing any funding for the sites.

According to the article, the parties most interested in promoting drone usage domestically are defense industry contractors, state research universities, and municipalities adjacent to military bases.

If you’re having trouble seeing the private sector in any of this, you’re not alone.  Commentators across the ideological spectrum are deeply disturbed by the near certainty that introducing drone surveillance into domestic airspace will do little more than empower government at every level.

Of course, there is one benefit promised for greater drone use: jobs.  As one retired Air Force colonel involved in Colorado’s plan told Salon, “The more freedom of movement the FAA allows, the greater the private business will be.  If unmanned vehicles have access similar to that enjoyed by manned aircraft, I think the commercial business will be ten times larger than the Department of Defense business.”

That’s an amazing forecast considering that military spending is 98.6 percent of the $7 billion-plus drone industry.  Until then, why not let government agencies up and down the food chain grow their budgets testing unmanned surveillance vehicles?  What could go wrong?

What we’re seeing with the rollout of the domestic drone issue is an example of one of the greatest threats to liberty and fiscal sanity today – a network of government actors negotiating among themselves over public resources.

If the system keeps mutating this way, privacy won’t be the only casualty.  We’ll also redefine what it means to create jobs.  Gone will be the idea that lower taxes and less regulations spur hiring and expansion.  In will be the notion that transfer payments between government entities are the best way forward.

And I think we all know how long that system is sustainable.

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