Hawaii may soon become a hub for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.
A controversial program that both the state and military are pursuing.
We see drones in many military and spy movies, but it’s a technology that is making its way into civilian hands.
That’s why the Federal Aviation Administration is looking to select 6 regional test sites, to see how drones can be integrated into national air space.
If Hawaii is selected as one of FAA’s drone test sites, we may see unmanned aircraft taking off from one or more of our state airports.
“When people hear the word ‘drone’ they think ‘oh my God’ what is the state up to? The key is to think of drones as robots,” says Representative Gene Ward, (R) Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley.
Ward says the drones he’s talking about wouldn’t be used for surveillance and security purposes, but can help with monitoring our traffic conditions, tracking wildlife at sea, or even with search and rescues.
“If we get this contract, it’s helpful for our economy,” adds Ward.
He hopes the drone industry could help generate cutting edge jobs and draw new tech companies to Hawaii.
The drone is the wave of the future, the same way subways are run, airplanes in the air, they run on automatic pilot,” says Ward.
“I’m kind of excited about it to see how drones and pilots will be together,” says Michael Tevper, a helicopter pilot.
Other pilots think mixing drones with civilian, military, and commercial aircraft is an accident waiting to happen.
” I don’t want to be flying around with those things … with some guy in some remote location looking at a screen without situational awareness,” says John Pitre, a helicopter pilot.
And he’s worried about the potential uses of the drones..
“I’ve got very mixed feelings about drones…flying killer robots, how about that,” he adds.
But drones have already flown in Hawaii airspace. A military base on Oahu has confirmed they’re used sporadically.
Still drones are highly unregulated at a federal level.