In a major step that could boost the use of drones in US skies, federal regulators said they have certified two types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for civilian use in the United States.
The drones, Insitu’s Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment’s PUMA, will mark the first approved commercial unmanned aircraft to be operated in the US later this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Both drones have fixed wings, weigh less than 25 kilograms each, are a meter and a half long and have wingspans of 3 meters.
The PUMA, a major energy company, plans to operate the Scan Eagle off the Alaska coast to survey ice floats and wildlife.
The FAA estimates that as many as 7,500 commercial drones could fly in US skies within five years.
Drones have already been used in the US for domestic surveillance. Federal officials in February said they were seeking proposals to create six major drone test sites in the country.
During an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), admitted that the agency uses drones in domestic spying operations.
Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) via a Freedom of Information Act request have also revealed that the US Marshals Service has experimented with using drones for domestic surveillance.
The administration of President Barack Obama is using armed drones for its extensive targeted killing program in several countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.