A who's who of technology and aviation companies won US approval May 9 to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people's tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers' drones won't hit crop dusters. But it's leaving Amazon out in the cold.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has chosen ten state, local, and tribal governments to participate in the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP).
The initial awardees in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program include towns in California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, North Dakota and Alaska. They will get special permission to test drone applications that are now banned or require a hard to attain waiver, such as flying unmanned systems over people, beyond line of sight and at night.
Under current regulations, small drones must fly within 400 feet of the ground, operate during the day and stay within sight of their operators. Myers, Fla.; Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, Tenn.; North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, N.C.; North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, N.D.; City of Reno, Nev.; University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska. In less than a decade, the potential economic benefit of integrating UAS in the nation's airspace is estimated at $82 billion and could create 100,000 jobs. As for the big names, FedEx is working with Intel and the Memphis airport to use drones for the delivery of aircraft parts and to perform safety inspections, and Alphabet's Project Wing drones will take flight in Virginia to test drone deliveries to consumers. This could be a precursor to the company's recently announced plan to develop flying taxis. It will also look at package delivery applications. It began limited drone deliveries in the United Kingdom in 2016. Studies have shown that drone response times are 16 minutes faster than ambulances, giving patients higher odds of survival. It seeks to leverage a statewide, unmanned traffic management system to facilitate precision agriculture operations. It supports efforts to accelerate the regulatory framework, determine the appropriate roles of federal, state, and local governments regarding drone operations, and foster technological innovation to ensure the global leadership of the U.S.in the emerging drone industry.
One major player that was excluded was Amazon. The program is scheduled to last for two and a half years and does not involve any federal funding.
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The online retail giant also patented a delivery drone that responds to human voices and movements, including pointing, waving arms and screaming.
President Trump has attacked Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. Neither assertion is true. "The development of our program has got everything from part delivery and plane inspections with FedEx", said Brockman.
Amazon likely feels differently.