Officials with the Property Drone Consortium say they’re encouraged by a new pilot program announced by the White House that will safely test and validate advanced operations for drones nationwide.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program is part of an executive directive signed by President Donald Trump that’s designed to help speed the integration of drones being used for commercial purposes into the national airspace.
“We support an approach that will allow industry to work with state and local authorities to address critical issues associated with UAS operations,” said PDC Co-Chair Gary Sullivan in a written statement. “We believe that such an approach should be used to facilitate a uniform environment across the U.S. for commercial use of drones.”
The program is designed to provide regulatory certainty and stability to local governments and communities, UAS owners and operators who are accepted into the program. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation estimates that the potential economic benefit of integrated unmanned aerial systems into the nation’s airspace is equal to $82 billion and can create up to 100,000 jobs over the next decade or less.
The Initiative encourages local and state authorities to collaborate with commercial entities to explore and address the needs for different types of commercial drone operations. Supporters say it has the potential to speed up the development of one consistent and transparent legal and regulatory framework that will help drones reach their full potential in the commercial space.
The pilot program will evaluate 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. It is expected that local, state, and tribal governments will pair with unmanned aircraft operators to propose solutions to the most difficult integration challenges, while subject to FAA safety oversight. The Secretary of Transportation will choose at least five proposals to consider for partnerships.
Though many are still waiting to see the specifics before formally endorsing any White House plans, it appears there is broad support for establishing a system that allows for the gradual opening of more airspace for drones to be used across the country.
“We believe this new program will be another important step toward realizing the full value of commercial drones and delivering on their benefits for the American people. We’re thrilled,” said Gretchen West, co-executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance.