With today’s announcement of the 10 governments selected to carry out the Trump administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP), drone technology innovators AirMap, Zipline and Flirtey have been selected to help cities accelerate the integration of drones into U.S. airspace.
After much speculation yesterday about which of the major aerospace and tech companies applying for partnership in the program, it has now been reported that while Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft will be involved in the program, Amazon and DJI didn’t make the grade.
However, it is with some interest that we take note of the smaller drone innovators that have been selected to partner with government by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA.
AirMap, the company that made LAANC (Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) available for drone software developers worldwide, will be indispensable to six of the state, local, and tribal governments. Their airspace management platform now delivers airspace intelligence and services to more than 85% of drones globally due to integrations made available to major drone manufacturers such as DJI, Intel, senseFly, Kespry, and Aeryon Labs.
AirMap are already deploying delivering technology solutions for Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) software around the globe including in Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia, and will use their technology to assist governments in the IPP to test commercial drone operations such as flights for package delivery, medical transport, search and rescue, emergency response and recovery, public safety, journalism, inspections and surveying, and more.
“Drones are a transformative technology and for them to truly become a part of everyday life the industry must work with state and local stakeholders who work and live where these drones will operate,” said Greg McNeal, AirMap co-founder.
In North Carolina, AirMap will work with the Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in collaboration with Zipline, Flytrex, and Mattenet to explore and resolve any issues related to UAS package delivery operations. Drone delivery company Zipline have already proven the viability of medical drone delivery in Rwanda and Tanzania, and were recently recognised for their efforts at the AUVSI Xponential conference.
Zipline’s CEO, Keller Rinaudo, expressed the keen anticipation of the organisation’s involvement in the IPP and said Zipline looks forward to bringing this life-saving service to the United States.
Today is an important first step towards bringing Zipline’s lifesaving drone delivery technology to the United States - @zipline Click To Tweet
AirMap will also partner with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), the City of Reno, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the City of San Diego. In Kansas, the DoT plan to test drones in a variety of use cases including package delivery, disaster response, agricultural surveying, and short line and nuclear power plant inspection. They also intend to pilot beyond-line-of-visual-sight (BVLOS) and night operations.
Flirtey, who have been selected to partner with four of the 10 IPP selectees, will join AirMap in its partnership with the City of Reno. Flirtey have previously worked in collaboration with NASA in the testing of UTM solutions on 2017.
The City of Reno, who are partnering with a number of organisations including the Reno Police Department, the Reno Fire Department, and medical service providers such as the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) and Northern Nevada Medical Center, are focusing on package deliveries by drone.
Flirtey, whose drone technology is targeted at those needing to deliver urgent parts and medical equipment, hope to prove the benefits of their technologies in saving lives and expand lifesaving drone delivery operations across the U.S. with fast-tracked regulatory approvals from the FAA. In July 2017, they made history by completing the first autonomous drone delivery to a customer home.
“The drone age is now a reality thanks to President Trump and Secretary Chao, and Flirtey drones will be delivering packages to Americans in less than 90 days,” said Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny. “Flirtey is committed to our partners across the nation, and we’re excited to work closely with them to bring drone delivery to their communities.”
Flirtey's #drone delivery service has the potential to save more than 100,000 lives per year and more than 1,000,000 American lives over each decade to come - @Fly_Flirtey Click To Tweet
Along with the recent commencement of the LAANC across 500 airports nationwide, the IPP has the potential way to pave the way for an economy strengthened by commercial drone businesses and industries. Currently, the drone industry in the U.S. is restricted by a lack of infrastructure required to maintain a safe and secure low-altitude airspace.
“The FAA gave the green light today to open up parts of the airspace to operations that have previously been prohibited,” McNeal said. “We are proud to be partnering with each of these states, cities and tribal nations to kickstart their local drone economy.”
The UAS IPP program is scheduled to run until late 2020, and will allow the FAA to determine how state and local governments can integrate commercial drone operations successfully into their respective regions.
Along with the opportunity to engage with community in the integration of drone technology in everyday public life, participants in the IPP may have the added benefit of fast track waivers, the White House and FAA have indicated. The DoT has also indicated that additional applicants may be accepted to the program during the three year slated period.
“A collaborative approach bringing together industry, national authorities and local stakeholders is the fastest way to open the sky for innovation,” said McNeal. “Our experiences in the U.S. and abroad have proven that we can innovate quickly when all stakeholders have a voice.”