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State leaders, researchers talk drone testing in Idaho

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez
Published On: Aug 14 2013 07:13:29 PM CDT

The gem state has thousands of acres of land used for agriculture and researchers said it's the optimal place to test drones.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Unmanned drones are flying in places over the nation.

Monday, we told you some areas of Idaho may soon be used for testing these aircraft.

The gem state has thousands of acres of land used for agriculture and researchers said it's the optimal place to research benefits and complications with these aircraft.

"We have all four seasons, we have rugged terrain, we have urban areas, and we have a very prominent agricultural presence," said Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.

So, the department submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration to be considered a research center for unmanned aircraft systems.

But we're not talking large drones.

"In most cases, these devices are 300 pounds and in most cases, have a wingspan or configuration that's not a whole lot bigger than a remote controlled toy that people use," said Sayer.

The Idaho National Lab has actually been researching drones for the last 15 years and is teaming up with the department of commerce to bring the drone industry to the gem state.

"Our biggest achievements to date have been associated with putting sensors on the aircraft to collect some data that we're interested in," said Derek Wadsworth, a researcher at the INL.

And with drones, comes privacy concerns.

Earlier this year, Idaho became the second state in the U.S. to adopt privacy regulations with these aircraft.

The FAA won't announce its decision on the six locations its looking for to build the research centers until the end of the year.

Researchers say these drones could benefit Idaho's agriculture industry, fire agencies and even the Department of Transportation.

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