USDOT selects participants in UAS integration pilot program

WASHINGTON. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao recently announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has chosen 10 state, local, and tribal governments to participate in the DOT's unmanned aircraft aystems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

This White House initiative -- initially announced in October 2017 -- links the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with local, state, and tribal governments; these entities then partner with private-sector participants to safely explore further integration of UAV operations. The UAS Integration Pilot Program is aimed at tackling the most pressing challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace and reducing risks to public safety and security.

The chosen entities are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in Durant, Oklahoma; the city of San Diego, California; Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, Virginia; the Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, Kansas; Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, Florida; Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, Tennessee; North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, North Carolina; North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, North Dakota; City of Reno, Nevada; and University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.

The 10 final selectees will now work with the FAA to refine their operational concepts through Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs). Data collected from this work will enable the DOT and the FAA draw up new rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations, identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration, improve communications with local and state jurisdictions, address security and privacy risks, and accelerate approval of operations.

Secretary Chao said of the program: “Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace.”