Drones have shot to relevance in the space of few short years, promising to reshape society in a number of exciting ways. But before letting the unmanned aircraft off the leash, the US is working to make rules that keep operators happy and the public safe. The effort just got a nice little nudge along, in the form of a new pilot project designed to overcome some of the challenges posed by low-altitude drone flight.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program was launched at the instruction of President Donal Trump, and in simple terms, is designed to integrate drones into US airspace faster to take advantage of their economic potential.
The program will explore uses for drones that are currently outlawed by current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, by accepting drone operators, local governments and communities into the program and providing them with a new level of "regulatory certainty and stability."
This will allow the US Department of Transportion (USDOT) and FAA to evaluate things like flying drones at night, over crowds of people and beyond the line of sight. These sorts of operations, if proven to be safe, could open up all kinds of commercial applications, including drone deliveries, aerial cinematography and disaster relief.
"Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this program to demonstrate how their innovative technological and operational solutions can address complex unmanned aircraft integration challenges," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "At the same time, the program recognizes the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft."
The USDOT will release more information in the coming days about how to apply, how applications will be assessed and how the program will work.