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By Randy Paige

EL SERENO (CBSLA.com) — A scenario is unfolding inside a warehouse in El Sereno to give students an education into the safe operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Students can guide drone pilots to aircraft wreckage by using the UAV’s camera to look for booby traps or other hazards before a rescue party can be sent in – a classroom exercise that could be duplicated in the real world when lives are at stake.

Lead instructor Tom Anthony, who heads up the Aviation Safety and Security Program at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineeering, says UAVs have arrived in the national airspace.

“They will soon be everywhere, but what we want to ensure is if they are in the airspace and exposed to other aircraft, they are there in a safe and secure manner,” Anthony told CBS2/KCAL9’s Randy Paige.

The benefits of UAVs, according to Anthony, are seemingly limitless: from ascending a high tower or descending into a pit too dangerous for a person to go into, drones can go places where helicopters can’t typically go – provided it’s done right.

“They have to be operated safely to get the benefit,” Anthony said. “If they’re operated recklessly, then we probably won’t be able to see the benefit of them.”

In Washington, D.C., the FAA is closing its public comment period as the agency begins to put together a comprehensive list of regulation to control the use of unmanned aerial vehicles across the nation.

But in the meantime, instructor Harrison Wolf says there are some simple guidelines for hobbyists who can’t wait to get their hands on the control.

“Fly less than 500 feet, don’t fly over people, stay away from airports,” said Wolf.

Drone operators must also make sure their UAV remains within eyesight at all times until it safely returns to the ground, according to Wolf.

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