DOT Selects Drone Pilot Program Participants

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 9 announced the 10 state, local, and tribal governments that will conduct test flights as part of the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. This program was announced last October and is designed to partner the Federal Aviation Administration with state, local, and tribal governments and private industry to explore and integrate drone operations and address the challenges of integrating drones safely into the National Airspace System. Commerce, photography, emergency management, public safety, agriculture, and infrastructure inspection are among the sectors that could see immediate benefit from the program, said acting FAA Administrator Dan Ewell. 

Over the next two and a half years, the selectees will collect drone data during night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, and the reliability and security of datalinks between pilot and aircraft. The data collected from these operations will help the DOT and FAA craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations; identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration; improve communications with local, state, and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.

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The selected program participants are Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, Oklahoma; city of San Diego, California; Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, Virginia; Kansas Department of Transportation; Lee County Mosquito Control District; Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; North Carolina Department of Transportation; North Dakota Department of Transportation; city of Reno, Nevada; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.