DOT announces 10 drone projects that will be part of UAS trials

Posted May 10, 2018 by Karen Graham
On Wednesday, Secretary, Elaine L. Chao of the Department of Transportation announced the 10 applications that have been selected to start as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program, that was introduced by President Trump late last year.
Drones will transform the future
Drones will transform the future
Pixabay / Pexels
In October last year, President Donald Trump put a new program in place through the Department of Transportation and FAA to accelerate and increase the number of drone tests across the United States.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot program, as it’s called, will allow US cities and states to partner with tech companies over the next three years. The trial programs are intended to test everything from delivering goods to night flights to flying drones beyond a pilot’s line of sight to sense-and-avoidance technologies and more, according to the Department of Transportation.
The ultimate goal of the pilot projects is to gather data that will "form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace,” said DOT Secretary. Elaine L. Chao
US media reported that Donald Trump had selected Elaine Chao  the Taiwan-born former labor secretary...
US media reported that Donald Trump had selected Elaine Chao, the Taiwan-born former labor secretary, as transportation secretary
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AFP/File
UAS pilot program was oversubscribed
Initially, only five applicants were going to be chosen to go forward with the UAS pilot program, but 200 applications from states, local governments, tribes, and businesses showed just how much interest the program generated, so 10 applicants were chosen.
There is the possibility that additional UAS pilot projects will come alive in the coming months. According to Reuters, Earl Lawrence, the director of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft systems integration office, told a Senate panel on Tuesday, other projects “could go forward under the FAA’s existing rules, including with waivers where appropriate."
He added, "The FAA will be reaching out to other applicants, as well as interested state and local authorities, to provide additional information on how to operationalize their proposed projects.”
Trials will include a variety of applications
While drone use for package delivery, including groceries and medicine is being developed, there are quite a number of other applications where drones are faster and safer than humans.
One selected applicant is Florida’s Lee County Mosquito Control District. This government agency will use a 1500-lb. UAS to help control mosquito populations by searching for hard-to-find pockets of larvae at a faster rate than inspectors can on foot, while also reducing the risk of being bitten.
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. The proposal includes night operations, BVLOS, and operations over people.
kespry drone doing an insurance inspection in June of 2017.
kespry drone doing an insurance inspection in June of 2017.
Kespry Drone Solutions
An application submitted by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will focus on agricultural, public safety and infrastructure inspections, with planned Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations over people and nighttime operations.
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.
The city of Reno, Nevada's application focuses on the time-sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment, such as medical defibrillators in emergency situations in both urban and rural environments. The project has several commercial medical partners working with them.
The trial will include the addition of weather and radar data intended to expand the UAS's capabilities using one drone in a three-mile city radius. This proposal considers a nationwide scalable model for medical delivery operations.
A woman gives a demonstration of an ambulance drone with built in defibrillator at the campus of the...
A woman gives a demonstration of an ambulance drone with built in defibrillator at the campus of the Delft Technical University in Delft on October 28, 2014. A Swedish report Tuesday said drones can drastically cut response times for delivering the life-saving equipment to victims.
Tennessee’s Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority was chosen and will be working with FedEx, which is headquartered in Memphis. The focus of the project is the inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations that support airport operations, such as security surveillance and package delivery.
The complete list of selectees
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK
City of San Diego, CA
Virginia Tech - Center for Innovative Technology, Herndon, VA
Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS
Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL
Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC
North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND
City of Reno, NV
University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
Amazon delivery drone
Amazon delivery drone
Commercial opportunities abound
The pilot program will collect data on night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft.
And while the data collected will help the USDOT and FAA craft new enabling rules, it is also an opportunity for a number of businesses in different sectors to reap immediate opportunities from the pilot programs, including commerce, photography, emergency management, public safety, precision agriculture and infrastructure inspections.