23 Feb 2018

US Drone Regulation Receives a Boost

The US Department of Transportation has unveiled the UAS Integration Pilot Program, and it has generated significant interest in the drone industry. President Trump signed the order in November, and it has been launched by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com


The idea behind the program is to move forward drone regulation in the US, with a particular focus on creating a role for both state and local governments in regulating the industry. So far, regulation of drones has been very patchwork, with many state and local laws interfering with each other, and limiting the federal powers.

There are two ways to apply for the program: as a Lead Applicant – a state, local, or tribal government entity or subdivision; or an Interested Party – anyone who wishes to partner with a state, local, or tribal government entity. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is one of the groups to have applied to be Lead Applicants. It is the third-largest federally recognised Native American tribe in the US, with more than 223,000 enrolled members, and it has been collaborating with James Grimsley, CEO of DII, LLC, to advance its existing aviation technology-related focus. Meanwhile, over 2,800 commercial drone firms have applied as Interested Parties.

Trump’s memo states that the pilot program’s intention is to open the national airspace to parties whose drone solutions could be useful in various sectors, such as agriculture, emergency management, commerce and so on, for use in both the public and private sectors. Maximising the drone industry as the numbers of the technology being purchased reaches unprecedented levels is key for it to survive and progress. 

So far, most of the “Interested Parties” are commercial drone operators, but there have also been insurance providers, enforcement agencies, and even energy firms, as well as many others in the mix, while their specialities range from surveillance, mapping, photography, and almost any possible use of aerial data.

The FAA has stated that the number of “Lead Applicants” will be no more than five, and it expects those chosen to enter into memorandum of agreement by May 2018. Extra funding will not be awarded by the federal government for these proposals, while Trump’s memo states that federal drone oversight ought to be flexible enough to keep pace with the development of UAS technology, while still able to balance its roles in protection of privacy and civil liberties, homeland security, and also of crucial infrastructure as well as the US airspace.


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