The drone industry got a big boost from federal officials yesterday with a White House order to establish a three-year pilot program to test drones in partnership with state and local governments in specific jurisdictions.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program was announced with President Trump directing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to implement the initiative through what they’re calling “innovation zones.” The program is designed to speed the integration of drones into the national airspace and capitalize on their economic benefits, according to a Department of Transportation news release.
The program, which is scheduled to start within one year, is expected to streamline the permission process in areas that are now restricted, such as flying over people, at night or beyond the view of an operator.
In less than a decade, the potential economic benefit of drones into the nation’s airspace is estimated to equal up to $82 billion and create up to 100,000 jobs, the DoT said, citing a 2013 report by the Assoc. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
The innovation zones, which could be as large as an entire state, could potentially enable companies or governments to operate drones in ways that are restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration under current rules. For example, jurisdictions might be able to deliver packages overnight, a practice that’s currently prohibited.