President Trump Directs Drone Integration Pilot Program to Accelerate Low-Altitude Operations

By Thomas L. Gemmell

Today President Trump directed the Department of Transportation to launch a new initiative to test and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments. The program, called “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program,” is designed to provide regulatory certainty and stability to UAS operators, local governments and communities.

According the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) press release, the pilot program will evaluate a variety of operation concepts, including night operations, direct overflight, flights beyond visual line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, counter-UAS operations, and the reliability and security of data links. Specifically, the program is directed to help the FAA develop a regulatory framework that will allow more complex low-altitude operations, address security and privacy concerns, and accelerate the approval process for operations that currently require special authorizations. The results of the pilot program will be used to accelerate the safe integration of drones into the national airspace system.

The FAA will soon be accepting applications for those who want to participate in the pilot program. After evaluating the applications, the Department of Transportation has been directed to invite a minimum of five partnerships. Stay tuned. Further direction as to how to apply and how the program will work is expected from the FAA in the coming days.

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