US President Donald Trump has signed a directive to establish a new research programme to test and validate the use of drones in partnership with states and local governments.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Programme will aim to unlock the potential economic benefit of drones while at the same time reducing their risk to public safety and security. According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) – which will be responsible for the scheme – successfully integrating UAS into the country’s airspace could generate $82bn and create up to 100,000 jobs over the next decade.
“This programme 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 US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L 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 programme is expected to assess multiple aspects of drone flight, 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.
The DOT will be working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while local government participants are being urged to partner with the private sector to develop proposals for the scheme. After evaluating all applications, the DOT will invite a minimum of five partnerships.
“Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this programme 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 programme recognises the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft.”