Federal agencies

DOT launches pilot program on commercial drone safety

Image: Daniel Paes/Georgia Institute of Technology

Washington – The Department of Transportation has introduced a pilot program intended to promote the safe commercial operation and integration of unmanned aircraft systems – commonly known as drones – in agriculture, commerce, emergency management, human transportation and other sectors, according to a notice published in the Nov. 8 Federal Register.

First outlined in an Oct. 25 memorandum signed by President Donald Trump, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program seeks to create a partnership between the private sector and state, local and tribal governments to establish groundwork for updated drone regulations while following the general authority of the Federal Aviation Administration.

All government entity and private-sector stakeholders may apply to participate in the program by submitting a notice of intent before the Nov. 28 deadline. Applicants must provide information that includes:

  • Airspace to be used
  • Description of planned operations
  • Stakeholder partners to test and evaluate planned operations
  • Available infrastructure to support planned operations
  • Experience with UAS operations and regulations
  • Background of existing UAS operator and other stakeholder partnerships and experience
  • Description of plans to address safety, security, competition, privacy concerns and community outreach

DOT will invite eligible applicants to participate via the FAA/UAS Program Portal.

“This program supports the president’s commitment to foster technological innovation that will be a catalyst for ideas that have the potential to change our day-to-day lives,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in an Oct. 25 press release. “Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes, and the wildfires in California.”

As of Nov. 3, FAA counted 99,790 online and paper-based registrations for non-recreational drones. That total was about 27,000 on Sept. 8, 2016, and 51,000 on Feb. 7.

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