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Utah hoping to be 1 of 6 drone testing sites in the country

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 3:53 p.m. MDT

A "Raven A" unmanned drone is seen at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, before an announcement of a partnership between the Army and Middle Tennessee State University, at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s conference.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is pushing to become one of six drone testing sites across the country.

The exact location of where the testing site would be located is still under wraps, as officials see that information as strategic in their application. The Governor's Office of Economic Development is spearheading the push. In all, 50 organizations from 37 states are vying for one of the six locations.

The military has long flown drones overseas to support troops, spy on enemies and fire missiles. There's a recent clamor to fly them domestically to track the health of crops, fight wildfires in remote terrain, conduct search and rescue after a disaster, and perform other chores considered too "dirty, dull or dangerous" for pilots.

If Utah gets a drone testing site, it could bring more than 1,000 new jobs to the state, according to a state-by-state study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The study looks at the economic impact of the potential project from 2015 to 2025. Initially, Utah could see about 245 new jobs, and by 2025 it could be 1,085.

In 2012, a congressional mandate was passed for the Federal Aviation Administration to bring unmanned aircraft into operational airspace, ultimately to develop technology to move the program forward.

As part of the selection process, test site hopefuls must publish a privacy policy and follow existing privacy laws.

The FAA is expected to choose the six drone test sites by year's end.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International does not have a favorite, but the voice for the domestic drone industry acknowledged that states hosting test sites would benefit economically.

In a report published earlier this month, the group said states with an already solid aerospace industry are predicted to gain drone business. But other factors, including location of test sites, will also drive job creation.

Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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