UAS in a clear sky

Oct. 27, 2017

The Trump administration recently announced a new collaborative program between unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators and state, local and tribal governments to expedite the integration of UAS into the nation’s skies and spur growth in an industry expected to contribute billions to the U.S. economy.

The three-year UAS Integration Pilot Program “takes collaboration to a new level by enabling local, state or tribal governments to determine what kind of activities will occur in their jurisdictions during the period of the pilot program, subject to FAA safety oversight,” according to an Oct. 25 announcement about the program from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

NBAA has long been a leading advocate for the development of sensible regulatory policies governing commercial UAS operations, and Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director for air traffic services and infrastructure, emphasized that the association will closely monitor the integration program’s development.

“We intend to be an active part of this process as it moves forward,” Williams said. “We must ensure the interests and concerns of our members and other UAS stakeholders receive proper consideration, with a continued emphasis on safe integration of UAS into airspace shared with manned aircraft.”

Under terms of the program, UAS operators are encouraged to partner with local officials to develop recommended operating guidelines in scenarios outside the current scope of regulations defined under Part 107 (which governs commercial use of small UAS) such as nighttime UAS operations, beyond visual line-of-sight flight and detect-and-avoid technologies.

These entities will submit applications to the DOT, with the agency selecting a minimum of five partnerships that will outline their recommendations and submit those strategies for regulatory approval. These partnerships may also submit recommendations on such factors as maximum operating altitudes and restrictions on UAS operations over certain areas.

By encouraging private stakeholders and local regulators to work together on developing UAS policies, the Trump administration hopes to speed development of an industry poised to add up to 100,000 jobs and $82 billion to the U.S. economy in less than a decade, according to a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“This program supports the president’s commitment to foster technological innovation that will be a catalyst for ideas that have the potential to change our day-to-day lives,” DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.

Additional details of the UAS Integration Program are expected to be published shortly in the Federal Register.

Learn more about the UAS Integration Pilot Program.