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Houston, we have a problem - Houston Selected to help test-drive unmanned aircraft [View All]

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Catherine Vincent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-23-07 07:28 PM
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Houston, we have a problem - Houston Selected to help test-drive unmanned aircraft
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Nov. 23, 2007, 6:09PM

If successful, remote-controlled tools could be used in law enforcement

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Houston is one of two cities chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to test whether unmanned aircraft can be used safely in an urban environment, authorities said. During the testing period, expected to run at least until next June, HPD and the Miami-Dade Police Department will help the FAA establish national flight guidelines, such as how the small aircraft can be deployed and what training is needed to operate them. "At this point, the project is strictly on a research level," Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo said.

During the testing period, HPD will be using an aircraft provided by Insitu Inc. of Bingen, Wash. Other models built by the company are used by the U.S. military in Iraq, according to the company's Web site. HPD officials said they can envision using remote-controlled aircraft in a variety of situations, including spotting traffic hazards and for search and rescue missions. "At this point, we don't even know if the FAA will allow law enforcement to use this type of technology. We're still in the research phase," Montalvo said.

Although the test aircraft has been provided without cost to HPD, the price tag can range from several thousand dollars to more than a million depending on complexity and capabilities.

Even if they get the green light from the FAA to fully deploy remote-controlled aircraft and approval from city leaders HPD officials said they have yet to decide which model to purchase. "We can't do anything until we understand what we have and how we can use this technology," Montalvo said. She said HPD's helicopter pilots will be the officers assigned to the remote-controlled duties during the test period.
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