Last year the FAA announced that it will open six drone testing sites to explore how to regulate unmanned drone use, and the first of these will open in North Dakota next week, reports IEEE Spectrum.
Drone laws are rather restrictive — there are still miles and miles to go before we live in the Amazon-sponsored world of instant product delivery to our doorsteps, but this represents a step in that direction. Here’s IEEE’s breakdown on what’s currently allowed:
Technically, you’re not supposed to fly drones out of visual range, more than 400 feet in the air, or closer than five miles to any sort of controlled airspace (including the Class B airspace that’s in place over most urban areas), without getting an an experimental airworthiness certificate (which specifically precludes carrying cargo) and applying for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).
North Dakota is a prime location for such a drone testing facility according to the FAA because it offers “a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.”
The first drone that will take off from the test site will be a Draganflyer X4-ES outfitted with a device called a Tetracam, which will be able to examine soil quality from the sky and may end up being an indispensable tool for farmers and other agricultural workers.