US: Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has been instructed by President Donald Trump to launch an initiative for safely testing and validating advanced operations for drones in collaboration with state and local governments. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program implements a directive signed by President Trump, and the results will be used to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace and to reap the benefits of unmanned technology in US economy.
The program will help combat the most significant challenges in integrating drones into the national airspace while simultaneously reducing risks to public safety and security. The program is intended to provide regulatory certainty and stability to local governments and communities, UAS owners and operators who are accepted into the program. In less than a decade, the potential economic benefit of integrated unmanned aerial systems into the nation’s airspace is estimated to equal up to $82 billion.
The program will help the USDOT and FAA develop a regulatory framework, permitting more complex low-altitude operations; identifying various ways to balance local and national interests; improving communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions; addressing security and privacy risks; and accelerating the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.
“This program supports the President’s commitment to foster technological innovation that will be a catalyst for ideas that have the potential to change our day-to-day lives,” said Secretary Chao. “Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California.”
The pilot program will be of great help in evaluating a variety of operational concepts, including night operations, flights over people, flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, counter-UAS security operations, and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft. Industries that could see immediate opportunities from the program: commerce, photography, emergency management, precision agriculture, infrastructure inspections and monitoring.
“Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this program to demonstrate how their innovative technological and operational solutions can address complex unmanned aircraft integration challenges,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “At the same time, the program recognizes the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft.”