The President’s New Innovative Drone Integration Pilot Program

Trump’s memorandum for the Secretary of Transportation calls for a drone regulation test program.

trump drones
President Trump (pictured at an October 24 ceremony at the White House) revealed the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, which will push for the safe integration of drones into national airspace.The White House

President Donald J. Trump's memorandum to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao called for an initiative to safely test operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments in select jurisdictions. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program will be used to accelerate the integration of UAS into the national airspace and to better understand the benefits of unmanned technology in our economy.

The program will help tackle the most significant challenges in integrating drones into the national airspace while reducing risks to public safety and security. It is designed to provide regulatory certainty and stability to local governments and communities, UAS owners and operators who are accepted into the program. AUVSI reports show that in the first three years of integration more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the United States with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion. This benefit will grow through 2025 with more than 100,000 jobs created and an economic impact of $82 billion.

“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,” said Secretary Chao. “Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California.”

The program will help the DOT and FAA develop a regulatory framework that will allow more 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.

“Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this program to demonstrate how their innovative technological and operational solutions can address complex unmanned aircraft integration challenges,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “At the same time, the program recognizes the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft.”

Congressman Jason Lewis was pleased to see the President’s action, considering how much in common it had with Lewis’ proposed Drone Innovation Act. He hopes it is just the first step to UAS regulation—as he sees it as incomplete.

“I’m pleased to see the President take this important action today recognizing the significant role that drones have to play in a 21st century economy. As this technology continues to grow and develop, we have to work to successfully incorporate drone use while keeping in mind the specific needs of each of our local communities. That’s exactly what my Drone Innovation Act does.

“While this pilot program recognizes some of the principles I’ve advocated for, unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough in protecting local control and the rights to privacy and property,” Lewis continued. “As we move forward, the next step is to ensure that our communities cannot only help expand the beneficial uses of drones, but that they also have the ability to take effective action when it comes to putting in place reasonable limitations on public use. I look forward to continuing to work alongside the White House and Secretary Chao to see that these foundational principles and rights are upheld.”

The 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. Industries that could see immediate opportunities from the program include commerce, photography, emergency management, precision agriculture, and infrastructure inspections and monitoring.