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Thursday, 10 May 2018

10 Drone Programs Get Federal OK To Break The Rules

Next Gov

Ten public-private partnerships from across the nation have been chosen to test the use of unmanned aerial vehicles—commonly known as drones—in potentially useful ways that are currently illegal under federal law without a waiver.

Last year, President Trump ordered Transportation Department and Federal Aviation Administration officials to accelerate the use of drones nationwide while ensuring safety and security. The department started the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program in an effort to help state, local and tribal governments connect with private drone operators as they find innovative ways to use the technology. The program encouraged applicants to submit proposals for test cases that would obtain data that could be applied to broader use cases, with the understanding that Transportation and FAA would waive certain restrictions to make these programs viable.

Almost 150 applications from local governments were submitted by January. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the 10 public-private partnerships during a live event Wednesday that included presentations from each of the chosen participants, with local leaders and legislators, their federal counterparts and private-sector innovators thanking the administration and touting their programs as part of the larger development of a drone ecosystem.

The pilot programs “will test the safe operation of drones in a variety of conditions currently forbidden. These include operations over the heads of people, beyond the line of sight and at night,” Chao said. “Instead of a dictate from Washington, this program takes another approach. It allows interested communities to test drones in ways that they’re comfortable with.”

Chao also noted the program aligns with the department’s top three priorities: safety, addressing and repairing infrastructure, and preparing for the future. The secretary said the last goal will be achieved by “engaging with new technologies to ensure safety without hampering innovation.”

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