The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has announced a number of new steps that are being made across the public and private sectors to promote the safe integration and adoption of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the U.S.
The announcements were highlighted today as part of the White House OSTP’s “Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation.”
Key actions include as follows:
- $35 million in research funding by the National Science Foundation over the next five years to accelerate the understanding of how to deploy UAS for areas such as monitoring and inspection of physical infrastructure, smart disaster response, agricultural monitoring, and studying severe storms;
- A range of actions by the U.S. Department of the Interior to use UAS to support search-and-rescue operations, augment manned aircraft operations, and improve government processes around technological adoption;
- A $5 million down payment by the state of New York to support the growth of the UAS industry in the state; and
- A collective commitment by UAS industry associations to implement a broad educational effort around privacy best practices for users of UAS technology, among other private-sector commitments to support UAS technologies.
In addition, the OSTP says the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed rule for operations of small UAS over people is scheduled to be published for public comment by this winter. The rule will be based on recommendations developed by an industry stakeholder committee earlier this year.
The FAA will also work with UAS industry stakeholders to charter a UAS safety team, which will consist of government and industry stakeholders who will use a data-driven, consensus-based approach to analyze safety data and develop non-regulatory interventions to mitigate potential causes of accidents involving UAS.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is also committing to the following actions:
- NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate will initiate new research in fiscal year (FY) 2017 to inform development of new standards for detect and avoid and command and control technologies. This research, planned for completion by FY 2020, will include simulations and human-in-the-loop tests.
- NASA and the FAA are launching a data exchange working group under the UAS traffic management (UTM) research transition team to address the challenge of coordinating information between operators, entities that use UTM to perform services and the FAA. This group will develop a consistent format for data to be shared across the affected parties; recommendations are slated for release in FY 2017.
In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is doing as follows:
- By 2017, the NOAA will begin collecting precise gravity measurements from an aircraft that can be flown remotely from a ground control station or as a traditional aircraft. These new gravity measurements will be added to other gravity data collected by traditional manned aircraft to improve how surface elevations are calculated over the entire U.S.
- By 2017, the NOAA will begin investigating how to add UAS observing capabilities to the NOAA fleet of ships.
The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is also announcing its intention to publish new findings and analysis on the public’s opinion of drone delivery as a future logistics technology.
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota will conduct beyond visual line of sight UAS flights from the Grand Sky business and aviation park. Pending FAA authorization, these flights will go from the surface to 29,000 feet without a chase aircraft and support the integration of heavier, faster UAS that can operate at higher altitudes.
For private-sector commitments, Zipline International – with the support of Ellumen, ASD Healthcare and nonprofit Bloodworks Northwest – will demonstrate the viability of UAS in disseminating critical care supplies to remote communities in the U.S.
Flirtey is also partnering with nonprofit International Medical Corps to focus efforts on humanitarian applications for drone delivery technology. The partnership will collaborate to develop lightweight, temperature-managed payload containers for medicines and vaccines for aerial delivery in remote and low-resource settings around the world.
The Commercial Drone Alliance is pledging to lead a broad effort to educate the American public on the integration of UAS into national airspace. The alliance will host town hall meetings and educational workshops; partner with humanitarian organizations; and work with the end-user community, NASA and UTM collaborators to further enable the acceptance of autonomy and UAS technology. Additionally, the newly formed Women of Commercial Drones and the Commercial Drone Alliance are collaborating to advance women’s participation in the UAS industry. The groups will kick off a mentorship program aimed at supporting career development for women in the UAS industry and achieving success in leadership roles.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, in collaboration with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics, will develop and broadcast drone safety public service announcements across its stations. This effort is part of the “Know Before You Fly” safety campaign, developed by industry associations with the FAA.
In addition, Google [X]’s Project Wing will conduct an operational research study at one of the six FAA UAS test sites to gain full operational experience of its delivery service; data will be shared with government partners.
The Drone Racing League (DRL) is releasing best practices for the drone racing industry, including event guidelines, organization and safety measures. The DRL is also launching a new website to provide pilots, event organizers and hobbyists with an easily accessible guide to drone racing safety.
PrecisionHawk is announcing its Phase I Pathfinder results to demonstrate the safety of extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) operations for drones in rural areas. Under the program – an FAA-led initiative to facilitate the early introduction of low-altitude operations for small UAS – PrecisionHawk quantified the EVLOS distance at 2-3 nautical miles for non-technology-assisted drone operations.
This October, DJI is supporting 4-H’s National Youth Science Day. This year’s theme is “Drone Discovery,” where over 100,000 students will participate in a hands-on challenge.
In addition, DroneBase and Drones & Good are announcing a partnership to provide transitioning military veterans with training programs and apprenticeships to start a career in the commercial drone industry.
In order to raise awareness of drone privacy best practices, the Commercial Drone Alliance, AUVSI, the Small UAV Coalition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CTIA, the National Association of Realtors, the National Society of Professional Surveyors, and MAPPS are announcing a broad educational effort to raise awareness for users of UAS technology around privacy best practices and some of the ways they can be incorporated into various operations.
Moreover, the Future of Privacy Forum, Intel and PrecisionHawk have released a report entitled “Drones and Privacy by Design: Embedding Privacy Enhancing Technology in Unmanned Aircraft,” detailing how drone companies are building privacy safeguards into their technologies and services.
More information on each of the commitments can be found here.