Sites selected for program aimed at expanding drone flights

Eileen GuzmanMay 11, 2018

"Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace", Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a press statement Wednesday. It doesn't include direct federal funding but allows state and local governments to get quicker federal airspace approval and establish "innovation zones" for drone testing, according to the state DOT.

Missing from the projects are Inc (AMZN.O), the world's largest online retailer, and China's DJI, the world's largest maker of non-military drones.

Brockman said the airport authority has been working on the application since a year ago. Its goal: to accelerate commercial applications for the use of drones.

Virginia Tech, one of the winners, said that Alphabet Inc's Project Wing, AT&T Inc, Intel Corp, Airbus SE and Dominion Energy Inc, are among the partners for a pilot that will explore package delivery, emergency management and infrastructure inspection. The applicants listed companies they would partner with in the experiments, and the winners may have a head start at the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs the young industry expects to create. Transportation officials say 149 applications were received.

Amazon said it was "unfortunate" that it wasn't included.

The goal of the two-and-a-half-year program is to help the DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration craft new regulations that will allow drones to fly at lower altitudes and along high-traffic flight paths.

One clear victor was Nevada-based Flirtey, a drone delivery startup.

Across all tests, a key focus for the federal government is to find a way to integrate drone traffic into existing air traffic while the aircraft operate beyond the visual line-of-sight of a human pilot.

"The state of Kansas has a rich history in the aviation industry and will be a strong asset to this pilot program".

"The days aren't far off when millions of drones will be flying in the airspace", Blanks said in a statement.

There are a bevy of independent drone companies involved in the pilot, including Fortem, AirMap, Zipline and Matternet.

According to the US DOT, areas that could experience opportunities are commerce, photography, public safety, and infrastructure inspections.

Despite being sidelined for now, Amazon and China's SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd both offered support for the programme. Taking aside from those made by other companies like DJI and Propel.

"We need flying burgers", Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi joked at a conference. U.S. DOT General Counsel Steven Bradbury said the new program is "building off those test sites".

Earlier, the agency confirmed it had sent two planned rules to the White House to regulate the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to Reuters, the head of the FAA's unmanned aircraft systems integration office told a Senate panel this week that numerous projects that were not awardees "could go forward under the FAA's existing rules, including with waivers where appropriate", with the agency reaching out to those local authorities "to provide additional information on how to operationalize their proposed projects".

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