Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used around the world to fertilize crops, monitor weather, and patrol borders. But here in the U.S., the drones haven't gotten much of a workout in civilian life. The problem hasn't been the technology. It's been the regulations.The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't want unmanned planes crashing into piloted ones. And so the agency have been extremely cautious about giving drone operators licenses to fly. For example, NASA recently wanted to test out a UAV for monitoring forest fires. But the FAA wouldn't allow the flight to go forward.That's why it is particularly significant that the FAA last week gave the U.S. Air Force permission to routinely fly Global Hawk surveillance drones in civilian airspace. It's the first COA ("Certificate of Authorization") given to an unmanned system."Previously the USAF was required to file a detailed flight plan with the FAA at least 30 days in advance," New Scientist reports. "Now the majority of the red tape has been cut making it possible for an unarmed Global Hawk to 'file-and-fly' even on the same day. The first use of the new COA will be a flight to Germany in October."(via Robots.net)

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