DOT Selects Participants for Drone Testing

Mae Love
May 11, 2018

In the most far-reaching test program to date for burgeoning drone commerce, the Department of Transportation announced the selection of 10 state, local and tribal governments - in partnership with companies that include Intel Corp., Uber Technologies Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. - as social and scientific test areas.

Cities will also hopefully see economic benefits: According to The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, by 2025 drones will create 100,000 jobs and contribute $82 billion to the American economy.

"We've got to create a path forward for the safe integration of drones if our country is to remain a global aviation leader", Chao said at a press conference.

City of San Diego, Calif.

Virginia Tech Center for Innovative Technology - Herndon, Va.

Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, Kan.

Lee County Mosquito Control District - Fort Myers, Fla. The Memphis-Shelby County project is expected to conduct work specifically around this, supporting work already underway by the FAA's seven drone test sites. Also including North Carolina's Department of Transportation.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.

The companies will develop "operational concepts" that includes testing package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, night operations, flights over people, the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft, and others.

Joining San Diego in the project here are more than 20 local companies and organizations, including Qualcomm, the City of Chula Vista, Uber, the Port of San Diego and UC San Diego Health.

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The contest drew 149 bids from locales looking to host flights at night, flights over people and other drone operations that USA rules prohibit.

Drone operations will be done in 5 airspaces across Memphis. 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".

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority plans to work on UAS traffic mangement that will communicate the location of both manned and unmanned traffic and support airport operations such as perimeter security surveillance. And customers in Virginia could be awaiting Alphabet Inc.'s flying devices to get goods they ordered.

North Carolina will be setting up drone delivery stations in local communities to help small businesses leverage UAS for commercial purposes.

Reno will be testing the delivery of medical supplies and will build up infrastructure including radar and weather data to help facilitate these operations.

AirMap, which offers a drone tracking service akin to an air-traffic control system, is a partner in six of the winning programs.

"Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace", Chao said in a statement.

Numerous programs include plans to fly on longer-range operations outside of the view of a drone's ground operator.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia.

The agency has said it hopes the proposed rules, laying out safety provisions when drones are flying above people and a requirement for them to transmit their identification, would be issued this year.

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