- U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the 10 selectees for the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot (UAS) Integration Program, all of which will develop drone pilot programs to help the DOT craft regulation for drone use.
- According to the press release, the "White House initiative partners the FAA with local, state and tribal governments, which then partner with private sector participants to safely explore the further integration of drone operations."
- The 10 selectees are the Choctaw Nation of Durant, OK; the City of San Diego; the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority of Herndon, VA; the Kansas Department of Transportation; the Lee County Mosquito Control District of Fort Myers, FL; the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority of Memphis, TN; the North Carolina Department of Transportation; the North Dakota Department of Transportation; the City of Reno, NV; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
The U.S. DOT has been active in accelerating the adoption of various new technologies, such as autonomous tech and drone usage. This support from the federal level helps local governments to advance their smart city plans and increase connectivity — and adding private partners to the mix helps governments explore a wider integration of operations.
The selected governments will partner with a wide variety of private organizations, including NASA, FedEx, Uber and CNN. The uses for drones planned in the winning pilot proposals include surveillance, agricultural and infrastructure inspection and maintenance, public safety, border protection, mapping, pipeline inspection and in the case of Reno, "time sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment."
Private companies such as FedEx, Uber and Alphabet are betting drones will be the next big technology for package delivery. Now that local governments can start testing drones for that service, third-party logistics will inch closer to winning regulatory approval to use drones.
Notably, Amazon's proposal wasn't selected, Bloomberg reported, a major loss for the e-commerce giant, whose Amazon Prime Air pioneered the idea of delivering packages via drone.