White House Tackles Drone Integration, Asks for Fed and Local Collaboration

By S.L. Fuller | October 26, 2017

drone silhouette

Photo by Greg Clarke

The White House is creating an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) integration pilot program, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said yesterday. This would give the U.S. Transportation Department the power to enter into agreements with state, local and tribal governments to test drone operations and integration models.

“America’s regulatory framework for aviation is outdated, limiting the integration of drones into the national airspace system and driving American technology companies to seek commercial testing and deployment opportunities overseas,” the White House’s announcement said. “With the increase in the number of unmanned aircraft systems … America’s aviation pioneers need a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while ensuring airspace safety.”


According to the White House, the program would:

  • Use existing federal authorities to accelerate testing of currently restricted UAS operations – such as beyond-line-of-sight flights and flights over people.
  • Aim to open the skies for the delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations and surveys of crops for precision agriculture applications.
  • Allow testing of new UAS traffic management systems and detection and tracking capabilities.
  • Aim to increase the number and complexity of UAS operations across the nation and help in the development of a future national aviation regulatory framework.

According to the FAA, the program would help develop a regulatory framework for low-altitude operations and identify ways to balance the interests of local and national authorities. Addressing security and privacy risks, and accelerating the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations, are other program objectives. The new program would also address night operations, package delivery, detect and avoid, counter-U.S. methods and data-link security.

The White House said jurisdictions interested in participating in the program are encouraged to work closely with industry partners and technical experts to draft proposals for participation.  After evaluating all of the applications, the FAA said the Transportation Department plans to invite a minimum of five partnerships. In the coming days, the department plans to publish a Federal Register Notice with more details.

Currently, the FAA has seven authorized UAS test sites: University of Alaska Fairbanks, the state of Nevada, New Mexico State University, Griffiss International Airport in New York, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and Virginia Tech.

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