An excerpt today's New York Times, entitled Domestic Drones on Patrol:
The first to offer a degree program in unmanned aviation, the [University of North Dakota] is one of many academic settings, along with companies and individuals, preparing for a brave new world in which cheap remote-controlled airplanes will be ubiquitous in civilian air space, searching for everything from the most wanted of criminal suspects to a swarm of grasshoppers devouring a crop.
“The sky’s going to be dark with these things,” said Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, who started the hobbyist Web site DIY Drones and now runs a company, 3D Robotics, that sells unmanned aerial vehicles and equipment. He says it is selling about as many drones every calendar quarter — about 7,500 — as the United States military flies in total.
The burst of activity in remotely operated planes stems from the confluence of two factors: electronics and communications gear has become dirt cheap, enabling the conversion of hobbyist radio-controlled planes into sophisticated platforms for surveillance, and theFederal Aviation Administration has been ordered by Congress to work out a way to integrate these aircraft into the national airspace by 2015.