Currently, UAVs can only fly in restricted airspace zones controlled by the U.S. military.
By May 2013, the next class of drones, those weighing less than 55 pounds, can fly the nation's skies, according to provisions of the FAA bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last week.
The deadline for full integration of drones into U.S. airspace is Sept. 30, 2015.
Rules about where and when drones can fly and who can operate them are still under development. And there are still technical hurdles, such as setting up the bandwidth for secure UAV radio communications and refining collision avoidance systems, said NASA program manager Chuck Johnson, with the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.
But the most pressing issues are privacy concerns and public perceptions.
"Right now, under current U.S. laws there are very few restrictions on our ability to take pictures or videos of individuals outside," Harley Geiger, a policy attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington D.C., told Discovery News.