Unmanned drones could be useful to Idaho farmers, firefighters and wildlife agencies — and drone research could benefit Idaho universities as well, says Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise.
On Wednesday, senators agreed. They approved a “concurrent resolution” urging the state Department of Commerce to lobby for unmanned drone testing in Idaho.
The Federal Aviation Administration is seeking six testing national sites for drones — or unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV, an aircraft without a human pilot on board. The resolution calls on the Commerce Department to spend $25,000 writing a proposal to the FAA — working with the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and the College of Western Idaho.
Drone research could also create a need for new community college programs and advanced college degrees, Winder said. “They’re on board,” Winder said of Idaho universities and CWI, “and they see great potential.”
Supporters say a companion bill would restrict the use of drones, allowing law enforcement to use the devices for surveillance only under “exigent circumstances.” Still, Boise Democratic Sen. Les Bock said drones represent a threat to privacy, since they could be used to spy on citizens.
The resolution passed 28-6, and goes to the House.
(Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News.)