Nov 15, 2013 8:12 PM by Nathan O'Neal
TUCSON - Unmanned aircraft soaring overhead in all sizes and shaped is not too far from reality.
The Federal Aviation Administration is working to eventually grant commercial drones access to U.S. air space.
One of the first steps is to establish six test sites across the country to introduce the drones into already congested skies.
Arizona is one of 26 states in the running. However, this doesn't come without a taste of controversy.
While there are a small number of drones in the skies today -- they're mostly limited to law enforcement or allowed to fly on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to introducing commercial and personal use of the aircraft, issues of privacy often come up.
"Tactically I think that the FAA has its work cut out for itself," said Brian Ten Eyck, the director of research and development at the University of Arizona's College of Engineering.
Arizona's wide-open skies could make for ideal testing space for the FAA to mix the "drones" with aircraft already in the sky.
However, a lack of current regulations draws some worry over privacy.
"The privacy concerns are very real and something that's going to be addressed," said Matthew Pobloske of SensIntel, a local drone manufacturer. He said that laws will have to develop to prevent nosy neighbors, for example, from invading your privacy.
"If he's flying a UAV over his house to bother you every day... You're going to call and say 'hey stop it' and there will be laws and rules and regulations in effect that allow the police to come out," Pobloske said.
That's not all -- it remains to be seen what kind of data and images can be gathered and stored.
Ten Eyck said that's part of the world we live in.
"We have all kinds of technology that's in place for years that could plausibly or arguable threaten those kinds of privacy... For example, every time you go up to an ATM you're on camera, every time you drive through an intersection you're on camera," Ten Eyck said.
The university also has a huge stake in the future of drone technology -- something that could make for advancements in all sorts of research.
Congress originally gave the FAA until September 2015 to open up the skies to drones but the agency has already missed several key milestones to stay on schedule.
The FAA also estimates that within five years of drones becoming widely accessible, as many as 7,500 commercial drones could be buzzing across U.S. skies.