The Trump administration has begun implementing a trial program to figure out how to integrate drones into national airspace with less regulatory burden on operators while providing regulatory certainty to local governments and drone operators.
The program is being implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation and calls on local governments and communities as well as technology companies to participate.
Commercial drone operation was made legal by the Federal Aviation Administration last June. Drone operators are required to abide by a set of regulations that include requirements for the operator to be certified, keep the drone within visual line of sight at all times and not fly more than 400 feet above the surface.
The requirements also restrict operation to FAA approval in some airspace like those of airports. The Trump administration views further integrating drones into the national airspace as a way to boost the economy. Within less than 10 years, according to the White House release, drones being allowed to operate more widely in national airspace could add 100,000 jobs and bring investment of up to $82 million.
“The program will help the USDOT and FAA develop a regulatory framework that will allow more complex low-altitude operations; identify ways to balance local and national interests; improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations,” according to a USDOT news release.
“The pilot program will evaluate a variety of operational concepts, including night operations, flights over people, flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, counter-UAS security operations, and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft,” the release says. “Industries that could see immediate opportunities from the program include commerce, photography, emergency management, precision agriculture, and infrastructure inspections and monitoring.”
After evaluating all of the applications, the USDOT says, it will create at least five partnerships. The agency will publish a Federal Register Notice with more details about how applications will be evaluated and how the program will work.