A few months back, the US launched a three-year pilot program initiative to safely test and validate advanced operations for drones. This initiative is working in collaboration with state and local governments under a newly-issued directive by the Trump administration.
Elaine L. Chao, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), has highlighted the benefits of the pilot program and safe drone technology in an article published in The Hill last week. She mentioned the use of safe drone technology in hurricane aid, parcel deliveries and technology advancement in recent months. She also spoke about other various ways of applying drone technology and future plans for drone use in the public and private sectors.
“Just as democratization of technology led to new programs, uses, and ‘apps’ for computers, it is leading to creative new uses and innovation for drones,”
During recent hurricane activity, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorized around 300 drones for search, rescue, and recovery efforts. “Drones let [rescuers] check roofs without climbing ladders, and make surveys faster and less expensive,” said Chao.
“They can detect humans in total darkness, and can see through fog, smoke, and haze. “Teams fighting wildfires can also use this technology to locate hidden hotspots that might burst into flame later,” she added.
“This flexibility helps explain why more than 300 first responder teams throughout the United States have purchased drones. In fact, a community college in Illinois has started offering a course for first responders interested in starting drone programs.”
Secretary Chao also mentioned that drones will continue to expand in the delivery sector.
“Utilizing drones in our nation’s airspace could add $80 billion to our economy and create 100,000 jobs in the next decade, according to a recent report by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International,”
Secretary Chao does have a concern that regulations could hold up the advancement of drone innovation. She warned that the U.S. regulatory environment is restrictive compared to other countries like Japan, Australia, and Great Britain. But the program will allow companies and governments to include various testing on beyond ‘visual line of sight’ flights, night operations and flights over people. The program will be overseen by the FAA in order to gather data to develop future drone regulations.