The UAS Integration Pilot Program just got its big kick-off, with Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announcing the state, local, and tribal government partnerships that would form the core of the new effort.
As you may remember, the program was announced back on October 25, 2017 with a very aggressive timetable that left interested parties scrambling to put together public/private teams needed to support a successful program. While the FAA originally committed to support five teams, the number of finalists is double that initial number, and includes:
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK – Agricultural, public safety and infrastructure inspections, with planned Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations over people and nighttime operations.
- City of San Diego, CA – Border protection and package delivery of food, with a secondary focus on international commerce, Smart City/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance.
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, VA – Package delivery in rural and urban settings. It includes the use of enabling technologies such as detect and avoid, identification and tracking, radar systems, and mapping tools.
- Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS – Support BVLOS operations in rural communities. It seeks to leverage a statewide unmanned traffic management system to facilitate precision agriculture operations.
- Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL – Low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.
- Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN – inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations for perimeter security surveillance and package delivery.
- North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC – Test localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations in local communities.
- North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND – Wide variety of diverse operations that incorporate advanced technologies that seek to expand UAS operations at night and Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
- City of Reno, NV – Time-sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment, such as defibrillators in emergency situations in both urban and rural environments.
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK – Pipeline inspection and surveying in remote areas and harsh climatic conditions
As illustrated above, the program is geographically diverse, with all regions of the country represented.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the announcement is who is not going to be taking part in the program, Amazon. According to The Hill, Amazon was a participant in a number of different proposals intended to support its vision of on-demand commercial package delivery, but none of them made the cut. Unless the Department of Transportation decides to provide insights into the selection process, we may never know why Amazon was not selected as one of the participants.