From a total of 149 applications, 10 winners have been announced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to run the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration pilot program. Just over 6 months ago, U. S. President Donald Trump signed the program into existence. The purpose of the program is to speed up the incorporation of UAS into the U.S. national airspace.
The aim of this project is for the winners, in conjunction with commercial partners and the FAA, to create test zones to develop the regulatory infrastructure for UAS operations. This will fast-track government regulatory approval and in turn, give a major boost to commercial drone industry.
Winners of the Integration Pilot Program
These are the 10 winners of the program as well as their proposals and plans. They will be able to test drone applications that are currently not allowed by law such as night flying, flying beyond line of sight and flying over people. The program will analyze how these test drone flights fit in with current airspace operations, traffic management, data exchanges and others aspects of the integration of drone operations in the airspace.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK
The scope of the Choctaw project is to test inspections on infrastructure, public safety and agricultural applications from a ground-based application. They will test night operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). They have partnered with Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory as well as CNN and have a plan that promises fast outcomes.
City of San Diego, CA
San Diego’s project is run by their homeland security office in partnership with local industry and academic institutions. Their intention is to focus on surveillance, autonomous vehicle issues, smart city solutions, border protection food delivery. They also plan to test emerging communication protocols including AT&T's FirstNet, 4G LTE and 5G technology.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, VA
Virginia put their efforts into radar, identification tracking, mapping applications and detect and avoid technology. They are working with the Center for Innovative Technology, NASA and a range of other partners in the cybersecurity field.
Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS
Traffic management through the use of beyond visual line of sight is the main aim of the Kansas project. The goal is to create an unmanned traffic management system for the state that will improve the efficiencies in agriculture.
Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL
Ft. Myers plan to use a large scale 1,500-lb. UAS to assist with mosquitos control. This will be done using satellite technology, infrared imaging, as well as ground-based, detect and avoid radar systems.
Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN
The concept with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority test is to test package delivery as well as surveillance of perimeter security. They are working with Agricenter International, FedEx and others in conjunction with manned airplanes.
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC
Working with the Department of Transportation, North Carolina aims to test applications for interstate deliveries of medical supplies. The existing plans involves work with Zipline and Matterne.
North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND
North Dakota intends to test and prove a range of application including processes and procedure, training, aircraft system technologies as well as external systems. The intention is to work on rural and urban applications that will cover a number of UAS applications.
The City of Reno, NV
Medical supply delivery is the main focus of the Reno project. The intention is to create a system that can be scaled for a range of lifesaving medical application. They are working closely with a number of private partners in the medical field.
University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
Remote pipeline inspection in the main thrust of this project. The concept is particularly geared towards inspections in extreme weather conditions. They also have plans for tests in UAS detection and public safety.
Exciting times ahead
These projects cover a wide range of drone application as well as the challenges that go with them. They propose to offer workable solutions in order to gain acceptance and government approval. Every success will boost the potential of drone application across the nation and pave the way for even more innovation and development.