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FAA forced to reveal 63 U.S. drone launch sites

Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-25 12:51:05-04

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) –The Federal Aviation Administration last week released a list of 63 authorized drone launch sites in 20 states, including spots in Virginia.

The information was released after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

There are several active locations in Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University was previously listed as a drone spot. Active locations in the state include Virginia Tech University, the United States Marine Corp north of Fredericksburg and DARPA in Arlington.

The EFF has compiled this information into an interactive Google map. Just click on the image to go directly to the map site and see all the locations. Red flags show active sites and blue show those locations where licenses have expired since 2006.


The map indicates that 19 universities and colleges, including Cornell, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College are also registered as owners of drones, suggesting that colleges are developing and testing drone technology.

These drones, civilian cousins of unmanned military aircraft, are flown by various entities like police departments, power companies, and even news organizations wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

A recent article in the Detroit News covered civilian interest in drone technology, as parts become cheaper and information more available. For instance, in the San Francisco Bay area, Occupy Wall Street activists built a Occucopter that flew and monitored police action against protesters.

This spring, the FAA is supposed to initiate talks around proposed rules that would allow limited commercial use of small drones.

Although a growing trend, widespread adoption of the technology has slowed due to concerns like drones overhead could invade people’s privacy, collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground.

Although the FAA released which locations have drones, they have not yet said what kind, or how many are at these locations.