On May 9, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced that one tribal government, two cities, two county-level agencies, two universities and three state agencies across the country will be participating in the department's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, a USDOT news release notes. The data collected will help the USDOT and the FAA craft new regulations.
The UAS Integration Pilot Program will help tackle the most significant challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace and will reduce risks to public safety and security, according to a DOT website.
"This is a historic moment".
"This is vital to making sure America reaps the important benefits of this new technology". And in Fort Myers, Florida, they'll be used to monitor the mosquito population.
The aircraft technology is being leveraged in many innovative ways including helping real estate agents provide potential buyers with aerial views of properties, building companies using drones for site inspection, as well as the potential for retailers to soon deliver your goods to your door in an instant.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma - Durant, Okla.
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The introduction of the test zones means faster approval for experiments that could lead to powerful use-cases of drones such as carrying medical supplies, inspecting building sites, and even the transportation of humans.
"We're grateful to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration for providing us with the opportunity to conduct our most advanced testing to date on USA soil", said James Ryan Burgess, co-lead of Project Wing, which will be testing in Virginia. Virginia's application was a coordinated effort spearheaded by Virginia's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA) with cooperation from the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP). Operations will occur in five different Memphis airspaces for drones weighing 55 pounds or less.
Reno, Nevada-based drone delivery company Flirtey will work with four of the 10 cities on its project to carry defibrillators to heart attack patients. Researchers hope to make drone deliveries a routine part of life in the state, though feedback from local residents will determine the technology's future.
A who's who of technology and aviation companies won USA approval to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people's tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers' drones won't hit crop dusters. Integrating unmanned aircraft into United States airspace could lead to a potential economic benefit of $82 billion, as well as the creation of 100,000 jobs in the next decade, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority submitted the program proposal with partners: City of Memphis, Agricenter International, FedEx, University of Memphis, Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, GE subsidiaries AirXOS and Avitas, Intel, Flirtey, 901Drones, Express Drone Parts, and Forever Ready Productions.