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Smithsonian to fly drones, jetpack near National Mall for 'The Future is Here' festival in DC

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WASHINGTON - Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is getting some competition from the Smithsonian Institution in testing personal delivery drones for the future.

Smithsonian magazine is hosting its second "The Future is Here" festival this weekend and plans to test fly drones and a human jetpack near the National Mall. The festival runs from Friday night through Sunday with events showcasing new science, technology and engineering.

Editor Michael Caruso said experts from NASA, the Smithsonian, Google and elsewhere will cover everything from evolutionary biology to artificial intelligence to space colonization.

"It's going to be pretty mind-blowing," he said. "By just sitting in one place, you are going to be taken into the future in all these different ways."

Events will be hosted at three museums and at the Ronald Reagan federal building. Tickets are $250 for an all-access pass.

The Smithsonian had to get special clearance from the FAA and Secret Service to fly a jetpack and drones so close to the White House. Jetpacks may not prove to be so practical for every home, but drones may be much more prevalent, Caruso said. The FAA estimates there may be 7,500 commercial drones operating by 2018, and Bezos has said Amazon could use them for deliveries.

"We're going to talk about uses that are actually much more practical than that," Caruso said. He wouldn't reveal many details about the drone test flight but said experts will discuss uses and how to operate a small drone.

"Everyone could possibly have one in the future," he said. "What would you have it do?"

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