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Amazon Drone Deliveries Get a Lift from the Transportation Department FAA Pilot Program

By 24/7 Support / / November 3rd, 2017

President Trump’s executive order to speed the approval of drone flights over crowds and for longer distances has prompted the Department of Transportation to officially launch a pilot program that will allow states to test new types of drone operations, including package deliveries.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order designed to speed the approval of drone flights over crowds and for longer distances.

The administration says it wants to open new commercial uses for the aircraft and create jobs.

"In order to maintain American leadership in this emerging industry here at home, our country needs a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while ensuring airspace safety," Michael Kratsios, a deputy assistant to the president at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a briefing with reporters.

Trump’s order, a response to calls from companies making and using drones, will allow local governments to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for waivers allowing them to conduct tests of deliveries, drone air-traffic systems, long-range flights and other uses generally prohibited under current rules, Kratsios said.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

“These partnerships will allow local communities to experiment with new technologies like package deliveries”Transportation Secretary
Elaine Chao

The move is the latest attempt to jump-start an industry in which technology has moved at a rapid clip - only to be held back by regulatory and safety concerns.

The government adopted rules allowing routine commercial flights last year, but with rare exceptions, it limited operations to short distances and ordered that they are kept away from people.

“These partnerships will allow local communities to experiment with new technologies like package deliveries, emergency drone inspections, and more, on terms that work for them and in ways that support a unified and safe airspace,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at the kick-off event at the agency's headquarters.

Under the three-year program, localities are being encouraged to partner with the private sector to propose a wide range of drone operations, such as allowing package deliveries, and the FAA will determine whether to accept them into the pilot program on a case-by-case basis.

While U.S. companies have been among the industry’s leaders, some have complained that restrictive federal regulations have slowed their ability to move forward.

Companies including Amazon and Alphabet’s Project Wing have at times had to test their drone-delivery systems in other countries.

Key dates after publication of Federal Register Notice (FRN)

Key dates after publication of Federal Register Notice (FRN)

UAS Integration Pilot Program Resources

  • Presidential Memo
    Presidential direction to establish a pilot program to enable public/private partnerships to test and evaluate the integration of civil and public UAS operations into the National Airspace System.
  • Federal Register Notice
    The official public announcement of the program.
  • Screening Information Request
    Step-by-step instructions on how to submit an application, including what kind of information you need to provide when you need to provide it by, and in what format.
  • Sample Memorandum of Agreement - 24/7 Support including Chat
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