Trump administration to accelerate drone testing in the US

At least five trial programs are expected to launch in the next three years.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Video: Domino's Dru drone will be able to carry pizzas

The Trump administration has set its seal of approval on accelerating drone tests in the US.

On Wednesday, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that President Donald Trump has directed US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to launch an initiative to bring technology companies and local governments together to test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

In a statement, the US agency said the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, the result of the president's signed directive, will "accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace and to realize the benefits of unmanned technology in [the US] economy."

The memorandum highlights the potential uses of drones in agriculture, commerce, emergency management, and human transportation.

Technology companies are already exploring how drones can benefit their businesses. Amazon and Walmart, for example, are both developing drones for use in deliveries, while governments worldwide are permitting tests for drones suitable as a means of public transport.

There are other ways that drones could benefit us, too. While military purposes come to mind, UAVs could also be used in agricultural monitoring across farmland, they could be used to deliver supplies in emergency situations, and may also find a place as a tool for scouting in rescue missions in dangerous environments.

See also: Dubai begins testing drone taxi service

At least five partnerships between technology firms and states will be accepted during the next three years. Each proposal will be reviewed by the FAA before acceptance.

The Trump administration hopes the new directive will create up to 100,000 jobs for citizens and claims the potential economic benefit of UAVs to the US could equal up to $82 billion "in less than a decade."

"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 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The US government has called current rules and regulatory processes "outdated," which is true. While pilot programs are not banned, navigating through the current quagmire of approval processes is a long and arduous process -- so much so, that some companies, including Amazon, have chosen to test their drones outside of the United States.

If the US wants a slice of the pie, then an overhaul was needed. In coming weeks, the government plans to release additional details on the program and how to apply, and it will be interesting to see whether an updated system will be an attractive lure for companies seeking an area to develop their drones.

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