U.S. Names 3 Universities as Test Sites for Drones

Three universities are among the six sites selected by the federal government to test drone aircraft, according to a statement released on Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. They are: the University of Alaska system, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and Virginia Tech.

According to The New York Times, the kinds of aircraft to be tested include tiny helicopters that could be used to inspect power lines, and Styrofoam planes that could fly over fields to look for agricultural pests. The testing will explore safety standards and the best training for ground-based pilots.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, has in the past raised concerns about possible invasions of privacy by surveillance drones. Members of Congress have asked the FAA to make sure privacy implications are considered when it writes regulations for civilian drone use.

The agency has put some privacy requirements in place for the testing program. According to its statement, “among other requirements, test-site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.”

Clarification (1/2/2014, 1:50 p.m.): This post originally provided an incomplete description of two universities picked by the FAA. One choice was Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, not the A&M system or its flagship campus, and another was the University of Alaska system, not an individual campus. The post has been updated to reflect this clarification.

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