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The Federal Aviation Administration is teaming up with CNN, PrecisionHawk, and BNSF Railroad to explore ways that drones can be used safely in the U.S.

In a press release the FAA said:

We’re calling it the Pathfinder Program. We’re partnering with three leading U.S. companies who have committed extensive resources to perform research that will help us determine if and how we can safely expand unmanned aircraft operations in the United States. These companies reached out to the FAA to work with us on exploring three key types of unmanned operations.

The administration says news organization CNN will research news-gathering methods using drones, while BNSF Railroad will determine ways that drones can be used to survey railway infrastructure and damages. PrecisionHawk, a drone manufacturer, will be responsible for using its technology to monitor rural crops.

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones, within U.S. airspace has been a controversial topic. Already Amazon, which is testing drone delivery services, has taken its operations overseas because the FAA has been slow to work with drone-savvy businesses. However, despite its glacial pace, the FAA seems determined to bring commercial drones into U.S. airspace.

Earlier this year, the administration released a set of proposed guidelines for drone operators that allowed them to fly UAVs weighing 55 pounds or less at an altitude of 500 feet as long as the drone remains within sight of the pilot and doesn’t fly faster than 100 miles per hour. Previously, flying drones at all was banned.


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