U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Drone Integration Pilot Program

507

On Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao unveiled the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, a new federal initiative to safely integrate drones and unmanned systems into the national airspace and economy.

Under the program, local, state, and tribal governments will partner with relevant private sector entities to create, implement, and test innovative drone-related operations and strategies. In turn, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be better equipped to develop a federal regulatory framework that facilitates the safe, effective, and efficient introduction and use of unmanned systems across the country.

“These partnerships will allow local communities to experiment with new technologies like package delivery, emergency drone inspections, and more, on terms that work for them and in ways that support a unified and safe airspace,” Secretary Chao said as she announced the initiative.

After reviewing applications, the DOT will select a minimum of five partnerships to participate in the pilot. Citing the potential economic benefits of unmanned aerial activity—$82 billion and 100,000 jobs in under a decade—Chao affirmed the federal government’s commitment to drone technology and guaranteed the program’s swift deployment.

Federal officials hope the program, which will sunset in three years, will simultaneously provide greater regulatory stability to governments and allow private industry leaders to showcase their UAS products and solutions.