Economy

Trump Orders Test Program for More Drones

The White House launched a pilot program on Wednesday to expand the use of commercial drones by establishing new test sites across the country that federal, state, local and even tribal governments would jointly oversee.

Similarly, the FAA is grappling with growing safety concerns about drones.

"The program will help tackle the most significant challenges in integrating drones into the national airspace while reducing risks to public safety and security", the department said.

The US Department of Transportation is toying with allowing regional governments to set rules for drone owners that are otherwise incompatible with federal law.

White House adviser Michael Kratsios told reporters the "program will open the skies for delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations".

The Trump Administration's drone program is meant to make it easier for companies to test drones by having local authorities, tribal government, companies, and the federal government work together.

"This is a good step", Drobac said.

The data gathered in test flights will help with both this issues, according to the White House.

While the trial program is expected to run for about three years, the DoT said successful cases could lead to changes in federal rules before the trial period ends.

Drone manufacturers have argued that the administration should move faster to approve broader commercial use of drones and noted that the Transportation Department does pre-approve self-driving vehicle technologies.

Right now, drones in the United States are largely a novelty. "States and cities will apply to open the airspace for operations that they're most interested in, that are the best fit for local conditions and complexities, and that allow them to welcome drone operations that can kickstart their drone economy".

One of the main reasons the FAA has moved slowly to allow expanded drone flights has been reservations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and security agencies concerned about them being used as terrorist weapons or for criminal activity.

The FAA will soon be accepting applications for those who want to participate in the pilot program.

But just because the new drone program debuted, doesn't mean that local authorities, the federal government, and corporate interests won't butt heads. The initiative will implement a directive signed by President Donald Trump this week that aims to develop a regulatory framework to allow more complex low-altitude operations; balance local and national interests; improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that now require special authorizations.

"I think when you're dealing with any major federal government policy, there's just a lot of "I's" to be dotted and "T's" to be crossed", Hogan said.



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