Drones that have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of suspected terrorists in the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan soon may be patrolling the skies over Florida and the rest of the United States.
But rather than launching missiles, domestically flown drones could fill a variety of peaceful roles, from aerial photography and land surveying to law-enforcement duties such as monitoring red-light running and speeding.
They also could be used for clandestine surveillance, triggering privacy concerns from civil-rights experts who worry about indiscriminate snooping on law-abiding citizens, not just criminal suspects.
What ultimately happens and under what restrictions are up for debate right now.
The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of Congress and President Barack Obama, is devising rules that by 2015 should determine how drones can safely share airspace with the nearly 340,000 commercial and private planes aloft every day nationwide.