The UAS Integration Pilot Program was signed on by President Trump at the end of October, and launched by Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on November 2. Since then, the drone industry has been watching closely for details and has energetically debated the topic. Tomorrow we’ll see if the state local and tribal governments required to be “lead applicants” are as enthusiastic.
As outlined, the program calls for state, local and tribal government entitities (“lead applicants”) to propose drone projects in their communities, working with one or more industry partners (“interested parties”) on planning and execution. The idea is that lead applicants will collaborate with the FAA on appropriate waivers and permissions, and take the opportunity to test projects that may currently be prohibited, such as those that require flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The lead applicants and interested parties will then provide feedback to the FAA on how the program works. The ultimate goal of the program is to give state, local and tribal governments a role in assessing how drone programs might work in their communities, and in establishing commercial drone regulations.
Structured as it is, the program puts the lead applicants in the driver’s seat – and industry partners, who have a stake in ensuring that these programs run well, stakeholders are educated, and that projects show benefit for local communities are in the position of courting applicants for a seat at the table. Industry players DJI and PrecisionHawk have both published releases outlining their qualifications and the resources that they are able to make available for applicants. Industry group AUVSI is offering to help promote industry partners to government entities. And today, the FAA is hosting a webinar to answer questions from all stakeholders about the program.
It’s clear that industry partners won’t be hard to find. Hopefully, there will be enough lead applicants willing to take on the project to make a real difference to drone integration.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.