The US Department of Transportation announced the selected partners for the UAS Integration Pilot Program. Both state and local governments and drone industry players have applied for the opportunity to have a voice in drone integration: of the hundreds of applications the FAA has selected 10 partners to kick off the program.
The idea of the IPP is for state, local and tribal governments to field drone applications which might currently be out of the bounds of regular flight. Partnered with technology providers, the governments will develop programs that benefit their communities: they will then provide feedback on these programs to the FAA to inform future regulations.
The IPP will evaluate a host of operational concepts, including 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. Fields that could see immediate opportunities from the program include commerce, photography, emergency management, agricultural support and infrastructure inspections.
“Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this program to demonstrate how their innovative technological and operational solutions can address complex unmanned aircraft integration challenges,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “At the same time, the program recognizes the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft.”
“This program supports the President’s commitment to foster technological innovation that will be a catalyst for ideas that have the potential to change our day-to-day lives,” said Secretary Chao. “Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California.”
Marc Kegelaers, CEO of Unifly, says: "We are thrilled to partner with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, a pioneering organization that contributed tremendously since many years to the UAS industry in the US, among others by leveraging their FAA-designated UAS Test Site.
Not only does the UAS IPP constitute a big step for UAS operations in Alaska, the program also represents a unique opportunity to advance the entire UAS industry throughout the country in partnership with the FAA.
As reminded by Secretary Chao, safety will always remain priority n°1. Our UTM solutions especially address this essential aspect, ensuring the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace. In this way, Unifly is very excited to support the Federal, State, and local authorities in meeting these objectives.
Unifly’s UTM solutions are successfully deployed at national scale in four countries in direct partnership with the national authorities, making Unifly the single most experienced global UTM provider. Adding our active participation in seven international UTM projects guarantees that Unifly consistently stays at the forefront of innovation."
The Integration Pilot Program is a way for the government to gather the data, evidence and use cases that they need to inform future drone regulation. Trying complex operations is an effective way of seeing how they work and identifying issues that need to be addressed; partnering with local government bodies to do that is an excellent way of both demonstrating the benefits of drone technology while gathering feedback and evaluating appropriate roles for local government in drone regulation.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks: “We are thrilled to have brought a UAS Integration Pilot Program home to Alaska," said Cathy Cahill, the director of the Alaska Center for UAS Integration in the UAF Geophysical Institute. "The 21 partners associated with our proposal represent the best UAS manufacturers, technology developers, operators and public and private end users from Alaska and the rest of the U.S. The talent associated with this partnership should move the safe operation of UAS in Alaska airspace forward significantly.”The UAF team proposed several ways to pioneer safe drone use in Alaska — to deliver medical devices to remote areas, help searches and rescues, survey fish and wildlife, and monitor pipelines, roads and other infrastructure. The pilot program's faster approvals and other benefits will allow far more timely drone launches.