Test Sites chosen for civilian, private use of drones

The U.S. approved drone test centers in six states, including New York, as the start of research efforts to eventually allow civilian unmanned aircraft widespread access to the nation’s airways.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after sifting through 25 applicants, also approved bids from Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia…

The selection is one of the first U.S. regulatory moves to begin integrating unmanned aircraft with piloted planes and helicopters as companies including Amazon.com…push to develop commercial drones…

The test sites will be used to help the FAA develop certification standards for unmanned aircraft and how they can be operated within the air-traffic system, according to the law requiring the sites…

The winners were the University of Alaska, which also has test sites located in Hawaii and Oregon; the state of Nevada; Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, which also plans to use a facility in Massachusetts; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, which will also conduct testing in New Jersey.

The first site will become operational within 180 days and will operate at least through 2017, Huerta said.

In response to concerns that drones put people’s privacy at risk, the FAA will require test-site operators to maintain records of devices flying at the facility, create a written plan for how data collected by airborne vehicles will be used and retained, and conduct a yearly privacy review.

Facilities must also adhere to all privacy laws that may apply to drone use, such as restrictions on law enforcement to obtain search warrants, according to the FAA’s privacy policy.

And we all know how thoroughly the federal government guarantees privacy laws. Right?

China’s high-speed rail on fast track – 7 new routes opened


Click to enlarge

Several new high-speed railway links in China are expected to start operations by the end of 2013, extending the network to over 12,000 kilometers, more than half of the world total…

It is the last link in the chain between the most dynamic cities and manufacturing centers in east and south China, with a population over 700 million, and almost as large as Europe…”Convenient transport will…strengthen the links between the economic engines,” said Long Guanghui, director of DTZ Shenzhen.

The “engines” Long refers to are the Yangtze Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone, which are connected by several high-speed rail links now, and may turn into a world-class urban belt on a par with the northeast coast of the United States, or the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, according to Chen Hongyu, counselor of Guangdong provincial government.

Other new high-speed rail lines which began services on Saturday include one in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, starting point of the ancient Silk Road, and another in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the bridgehead of China-ASEAN cooperation…

Huge shadow was cast in 2011 when a crash claimed 40 lives in east China. Since then, a series of corruption scandals have brought about the arrest of the former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, on charges of corruption and abuse of power…

“The former railways ministry was a mixture of administrative and commercial operations and a monopoly. It was a hotbed of corruption,” said Xiao Jun, a professor at Shenzhen University. “Besides investigating the accident and scandals, the government has taken action to solve institutional problems…”

Xiao Jun believes that what happened in the high-speed rail sector proves that fighting corruption will not hamper economic development…”On the contrary, it is the zero-tolerance of corruption and the improvement of systems that restored public confidence in the industry,” Xiao added.

He stressed that the world’s largest constructor and operator of high-speed rail must continuously eliminate institutional flaws, carry on the separation of government and enterprise, and enforce supervision of investment in the public sector.

It’s difficult for Western rail builders to compete when your country hasn’t suitable track or the inclination to build their own high speed rail system. France can compete – and does. The United States hasn’t a clue.

Yes, there are people in government, members of Congress who are fully aware of the benefits of high speed rail for transport as well as the commercial possibilities for domestic and mostly foreign consumption. They could probably carry enough votes to change the name of a railroad station somewhere on one of the coasts.

That’s it, folks.