The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has started a program that could bring benefits to the supply chain by introducing drones into the country for tasks such as parcel delivery.
Under the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, the White House initiative will group the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with local, state and tribal governments, which will then collaborate with private sector participants to explore the further integration of drone operations.
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.
A non-profit drone and robotic organization, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), has estimated that the potential economic benefit of integrating UAS in the US’s airspace could be $82 billion in less than a decade.
Research into how drones could deliver parcels is being undertaken by companies such as Airbus Helicopters, which is at an advanced stage of the Skyways project:
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Over the next two and a half years, the selectees will collect drone data involving 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 data links between pilot and aircraft.
The data collected from these operations will help the USDOT and the 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.
Fields that could see immediate opportunities from the program include commerce, photography, emergency management, public safety, precision agriculture and infrastructure inspections.
US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, said: “Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace.
“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon.”