The Transportation Department has chosen 10 state, local and tribal governments to participate in a program to accelerate the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.
Transportation officials say 149 applications were received. The program commenced in November 2017 following the Trump administration's recognition of the significant role that drones have in the 21st century economy and desire for public and private entities to collaborate and solve the challenges that have previously hindered the integration of drones into national airspace.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, Okla.
In terms of territories and local authorities, the winners are reportedly comprised of California, Nevada, North Dakota, and Tennessee.
Other agencies approved by the FAA sought to use new drone projects related to checking pipelines and other infrastructure, border security, controlling mosquitoes and delivering medical equipment.
But FedEx is betting on drones being the next big technology for package delivery, because the 3PL is partnering with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority to develop a pilot to do just that. They are partnering with CNN and the Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory in an intense 90-day schedule for high-profile Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) and night operations. It will focus on border protection, delivery of packaged food, worldwide commerce, smart city/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance.
The State of Kansas was the first state to name a director for Unmanned Aircraft Systems and has already deployed an unmanned traffic management system. Kansas Secretary of Transportation Richard Carlson said the state's DOT planned to test drones for "infrastructure inspections, search and rescue and remote area assessments". This government agency will use a 1500-lb. The Lee County application explains they will use current and future technologies that include ground-based detect and avoid radar systems that would integrate ADS-B, infrared imaging and satellite technology.
North Carolina will be setting up drone delivery stations in local communities to help small businesses leverage UAS for commercial purposes.
In a statement responding to the USDOT announcement, the NCDOT said: "The primary focus of NCDOT's proposal is working with global drone delivery companies, such as Zipline, Matternet and Flytrex to set up a network of medical distribution centers that can use drones to make medical deliveries".
Blood and other supplies now travel by courier to hospitals and testing facilities. Virginia's application was a coordinated effort spearheaded by Virginia's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA) with cooperation from the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP).
"The days aren't far off when millions of drones will be flying in the airspace", Blanks said in a statement.
Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.