FAA and White House Flying High On Drones

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It may soon be easier for towercos to use drones to assist them in activities like mapping and inspections. President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to undertake an initiative to increase government and commercial use of drones.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program would enable safety tests and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments in certain jurisdictions. The program is designed to provide regulatory certainty and stability to local governments and communities, drone owners and operators who are accepted into the program, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The program will help the USDOT and FAA develop a regulatory framework that will allow more complex low-altitude operations; identify ways to balance local and national interests; improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.  

Among the things that could be tested are package deliveries; the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft; and technology to prevent collisions between drones and other aircraft and to detect and counter drones flying in restricted areas. After evaluating all of the applications, the U.S. Department of Transportation will invite a minimum of five partnerships. USDOT plans to soon detail how the applications will be evaluated and how the program will work.

In the past two years, the FAA has registered more than one million drones. Most of them belong to hobbyists. Safety restrictions have limited drone use; the first test zones are expected to be finalized in about a year, according to officials.

October 30, 2017

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