Drone research: a boon for higher ed?

The civilian use of unmanned drones could be useful to Idaho farmers, firefighters and wildlife agencies — and drone research could benefit Idaho universities as well, says Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise.

On Wednesday, senators agreed. They approved a “concurrent resolution” urging the state Department of Commerce to lobby for unmanned drone testing in Idaho.

The Federal Aviation Administration is seeking six testing national sites for drones — or unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV, an aircraft without a human pilot on board. The resolution calls on the Commerce Department to spend $25,000 writing a proposal to the FAA — working with the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and the College of Western Idaho.

Drone research could also create a need for new community college programs and advanced college degrees, Winder said. “They’re on board,” Winder said of Idaho universities and CWI, “and they see great potential.”

Supporters say a companion bill would restrict the use of drones, allowing law enforcement to use the devices for surveillance only under “exigent circumstances.” Still, Boise Democratic Sen. Les Bock said drones represent a threat to privacy, since they could be used to spy on citizens.

The resolution passed 28-6, and goes to the House.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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