Trump administration seeks to advance UAS integration

By Patrick C. Miller | October 26, 2017

The Trump administration this week announced the launch of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program intended to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace.

The program is also aimed at using unmanned technology to boost the U.S. economy through jobs creation, improved productivity and increased efficiency. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the program will address the most significant challenges of UAS integration while reducing risks to public safety and security.

“The pilot program will offer a data-driven approach to allow for expanded UAS operations, including beyond line of sight, and UAS traffic management concepts,” said Brian Wynne. president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “Maintaining federal authority of the airspace will help foster innovation and allow states, municipalities and tribes to tap into the full potential of UAS, while continuing to keep our skies safe.”

The White House released a statement which said, “America’s regulatory framework for aviation is outdated, limiting the integration of drones into the national airspace system and driving American technology companies to seek commercial testing and deployment opportunities overseas.”

President Donald Trump directed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to launch an initiative to safely test and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state, local and tribal governments. The White House said the program will establish innovation zones for testing complex UAS operations that:

-       Accelerate beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights and flights over people.

-       Allow UAS applications such as the delivery of medicine and commercial packages, infrastructure inspections, emergency management operations and precision agriculture operations.

-       Test new UAS traffic management systems, as well as detection and tracking capabilities.

-       Assist in the development of a national aviation regulatory framework.

-       Increase the number and complexity of UAS operations across the U.S.

-       Encourage industry, government and technical experts to form partnerships and draft proposals for program participation.

“Stakeholders will have the opportunity through this program to demonstrate how their innovative technological and operational solutions can address complex unmanned aircraft integration challenges,” said Michael Huerta, FAA administrator. “At the same time, the program recognizes the importance of community participation in meaningful discussions about balancing local and national interests related to integrating unmanned aircraft.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. said, “As this program is implemented, we must ensure that federal authority over our airspace is maintained to protect against a burdensome and complicated patchwork of local rules that could impede the full implementation of this innovative technology.”

Congressman Jason Lewis, R-Minn., called Trump’s UAS program a good first step in expanding the beneficial uses of drones, but added that more is needed. “While this pilot program recognizes some of the principles I’ve advocated for, unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough in protecting local control and the rights to privacy and property,” he said.

A statement from the Small UAV Coalition noted that earlier in October, it and 30 other organizations sent a letter to Trump underscoring the need for a UAS pilot program. The coalition said it “welcomes the administration’s commitment to promoting the safe operation of UAS and to enabling the development of UAS technology.”

Additional information on the UAS Integration Pilot Program is available here: