Hawaii set to take off as FAA drone testing site

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A FAA drone testing program that lawmakers say could bring high tech jobs to Hawaii is finally getting the funding it needs. The governor recently approved $135,000 to hire a chief operating officer for the program.

Advocates like Senator Will Espero say this is a good first step. Hopefully Hawaii can create a little niche market in terms of unmanned aerial systems in both manufacturing and being a part of research and development. Hawaii partnered with Alaska and Oregon to become a drone testing site in 2013, but the state is just now beginning to fund the program.

So how will the program affect residents amid growing privacy concerns. Senator Espero says privacy is very important to the program, “Certainly privacy is paramount and high-priority and want to make certain that even if law enforcement that they have warrants and they’re not using individual rights or constitutional rights.”

Hawaii was selected for the program partly because it has so much open airspace over water, and because of it’s diverse terrain and climate. The FAA is using these test sites to see how to integrate drones into airspace that is already used by planes and helicopters.

Aviation analyst Peter Forman says being part of the program is good for the state and for pilots. “It’s something that we all know was coming there’s going to be turns carrying packages and things like that in the future so why not have some input.”

For more information, log onto http://gpcprod.spo.hawaii.gov/spo2/exempt103d/attachments/form071926.pdf

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