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Apr 1, 2012 12:04 PM by Matt Stafford

Drones coming to a sky near you as interest surges

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Drones are the signature weapon of U.S. wars in the 21st century. Just as Humvees became a presence on U.S. highways in the 1990s after the first war with Iraq, interest in non-military uses of drones from policing to farming is rising.

Thousands of hobbyists are taking part in what has become a global do-it-yourself drone subculture.

The pastime is thriving as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to make the skies friendlier to unmanned aircraft of all sizes.

The use of drones in the U.S. by law enforcement and other government agencies has privacy advocates on edge.

Meanwhile, hobbyists say the cost of flying their own drones has fallen sharply due to the popularity of smartphones, which use the same kinds of chips needed by drone autopilot systems.

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