US drone UAS (drone) pilot program participants selected

Ten state, local and tribal governments in the US have been selected by the US Department of Transport (USDOT) as participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

In a statement, the US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, said: “Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace.”

The 10 UAS pilot selectees are:

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK City of San Diego, CA Virginia Tech – Center for Innovative Technology, Herndon, VA Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND City of Reno, NV University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK

The 10 selectees were from 149 applicants. Over the next 30 months they will collect UAS data involving night operations, flights over people and pilot’s line of sight; package delivery; detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft.

USDOT said that the data will help “craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations, identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration, improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions, address security and privacy risks, and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations”.

The UAS tests being conducted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) could be of particular interest, as it will focus on the use of delivery drones.

In a statement responding to the USDOT announcement, the NCDOT said: “The primary focus of NCDOT’s proposal is working with global drone delivery companies, such as Zipline, Matternet and Flytrex to set up a network of medical distribution centers that can use drones to make medical deliveries. These companies currently operate overseas.

“Blood and other supplies currently travel by courier to hospitals and testing facilities. With drones, medical providers would get the test results and supplies they need much faster.”