Two weeks after a group of drone manufacturers, users, and other organizations appealed to the White House for a collaborative approach developing new drone technology, President Donald Trump on Oct. 25 signed a memo aiming to accelerate low-altitude testing of package delivery and other advanced applications.
AOPA was among the 29 organizations signing the Oct. 11 appeal to ease some of the regulatory obstacles to developing a technology that has the potential to create jobs and spur an industry with multibillion-dollar potential. The executive memorandum directs Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to create a program to test and validate advanced drone operations in collaboration with state and local officials.
Companies such as Amazon, which is developing a drone package delivery system called Prime Air, have conducted much of their research and development overseas because of restrictive FAA regulations. The White House is not dispensing with those regulations, but is directing the establishment of pilot programs in cooperation with willing partners in state and local governments. Drone makers and other stakeholders will be able to apply for permission to conduct research and test flights at low altitudes, typically up to 200 feet and as high as 400 feet if the Secretary of Transportation deems that necessary. The New York Times reported that the details remain to be worked out, but a typical operation might involve package delivery in a given town during the overnight hours.
AOPA remains an active participant in the FAA Drone Advisory Committee and related efforts to take a collaborative approach to rulemaking, with safe integration the organization’s top priority.