"The FAA can jump on this train or they can run along behind it, but it is going to leave without them."

From the Danger Room blog:

In the Spring of 2006, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department began flying small spy drones to track suspects. Weeks later, the drone was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Top cops are still pissed:


The chairman of the aviation committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police... Donald Shinnamon... charges that the FAA is applying its rules inconsistently and defying federal laws about government-operated aircraft.

"There is an immediate need by state and local public safety personnel for unmanned aerial systems," he said at an unmanned systems confab here this week. But by his interpretation, the FAA's rules mean "it's OK to fly a model aircraft but not OK to fly an aircraft in search of a murder suspect" without its permission...

Local officials aren't necessarily looking for unfettered UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle]-driving rights, Shinnamon said. Ideally, the FAA will be able to work with state and local government officials to come up with UAV-specific regulations, which address things like how high the drones can fly, how far they can travel from their operator, and whether they need to be in the driver's line of sight.

"Once we overcome this regulatory issue, I honestly think the use of this technology will explode at the local government level because it offers just so many benefits to us and the ability to serve our citizens," Shinnamon said.

[L.A. Sherrif's Department Sid] Heal, whose office tested a drone last year but has not yet secured formal permission to use it, said he doesn't "detect any sense of urgency" on the FAA's part to make its regulations simpler for local officials to follow.

"We're going to do this; this is coming," he said. "And (the FAA) can jump on this train or they can run along behind it, but it is going to leave without them."

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