INDUSTRY SPECIAL: How the US’ drone integration programme will shape the development of the UAV industry

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A raft of drone leaders are preparing to hit the ground running as a first-of-its-kind drone integration programme takes off in the US.

The UAS Integration Pilot Program, which is being run by the U.S. Transportation Department with guidance from the FAA, will see 10 selectees develop use-cases in partnership with industry leaders.

The UAS Integration Pilot Program is an opportunity for state, local and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAV operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration.

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The programme is expected to foster a ‘meaningful dialogue’ on the balance between local and national interests related to UAV integration, and provide actionable information to the USDOT on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

The 10 selectees are:

• Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK
• City of San Diego, CA
• Virginia Tech – Center for Innovative Technology, Herndon, VA
• Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS
• Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL
• Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN
• North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC
• North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND
• City of Reno, NV
• University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK

Each of the selectees has outlined its targets and detailed which industry organisations they intend to work with for the duration of the project.

Technology heavy-weight Intel was listed as a partner for both San Diego and Virginia while FedEx is listed as a contributor for Nevada and Tennessee.

A spokesperson for Intel said: “The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program has brought together the cross section of partners necessary to carry out the type of meaningful testing that will drive benefits for communities across the country and guide industry growth. Intel is pleased to have joined tremendous partners and to be included as a participant in the UAS Integration Pilot Program.

“In coordination with localities, we look forward to testing technology solutions that address concerns related to UAS deployment and generate critical data to inform smart public policy. States and localities will continue to look to drones for safer, more efficient infrastructure inspection, search and rescue and disaster relief. The UAS Integration Pilot Program will provide the needed foundation to expand on what is possible.”

While companies such as delivery start-up Flirtey and Airbus Aerial played key roles in securing selectees’ bids, DJI, a global leader in drone manufacturing, was noticeably absent from the programme, along with ecommerce giant Amazon, which is ramping up its focus on UAVs.

However, the FAA has stated that, while the selectees have been announced, it will continue to expand its list of partners and DJI has added that it ‘stands ready to assist these programs with technology and advice’.

The FAA’s programme in America offers regional companies the opportunity to collaborate with national bodies in a manner similar to Nesta’s Flying High Challenge in the UK. In this project, which is funded by Innovate UK, five cities have been selected to develop the use of UAVs in urbanised areas across different use cases.

Tags : Airbus AerialAmazondrone deliverydronesFAAFedExFlirteyIntegrationIntelpilot programUAV
Emma Calder

The author Emma Calder