The FAA is requesting applications by November 28 for the new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration pilot program. This program is in response to an October Presidential Memorandum that directed the FAA to test and evaluate state and local government proposals regarding the integration of civil and public UAS operations into the low-altitude National Airspace System (NAS).
It is designed to accelerate existing integration plans by working to solve technical, regulatory and policy challenges, while enabling advanced UAS operations in select areas subject to ongoing safety oversight and cooperation between the federal government and applicable state and local jurisdictions. Applications are open to state, local and tribal governments, in partnership with UAS operators and other private sector stakeholders, to conduct advanced operations safely and with public support in affected communities. All organizations interested in applying or participating must follow the procedures set forth in the agency's Screening Information Request (SIR).
The FAA/DOT has established four program objectives: accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the NAS by testing and validating new concepts of beyond visual line of sight operations in a controlled environment, focusing on detect and avoid technologies, command and control links, navigation, weather and human factors; address ongoing concerns regarding the potential security and safety risks associated with UAS operating in close proximity to human beings and critical infrastructure by ensuring that operators communicate more effectively with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement to enable law enforcement to determine if a UAS operation poses such a risk; promote innovation in and development of the U.S. unmanned aviation industry, especially in sectors such as agriculture, emergency management, inspection services and transportation safety; and identify the most effective models of balancing local and national interests in UAS integration.
According to the FAA, data provided by the program will be used to advance the overall state of the industry, including the development of enabling regulations that will increase other types of routine drone operations, such as beyond line-of-sight flights for pipeline inspections in remote areas or search and rescue operations; operations over human beings, including newsgathering or public safety; and package delivery, including the delivery of consumer goods and medical supplies.
Operational experience gained through these partnerships will be used to enable the FAA to more quickly authorize operations that currently require special permission and will inform future policy development to help expand the industry, the agency said.