Trump administration clears the path for more drone testing

With that in place, local government officials will have input into drone operations in their communities without infringing on the federal jurisdiction over the national airspace according to Brian Wynne, president and chief executive officer of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Trump on Wednesday signed a presidential memorandum directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create a pilot programme allowing localities to propose expanded drone operations that include flights over people, night-time operations and flying beyond the visual line of sight, all of which are now prohibited, reports The Hill magazine.

The Federal Aviation Administration created six experimental sites nationwide in 2013 to test functions such as flying a drone farther away than a pilot can see or flying over crowds. That includes "beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights, nighttime operations, and flights over people", as White House advisor Michael Kratsios said today. "Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California", Secretary Chao said in a statement. "It is simple common sense that the local authorities who know their communities best should have jurisdiction over the immediate airspace where drones operate".

There could be more drones flying around in the USA as a result of a Trump administration test programme to increase government and commercial use of the unmanned aircraft.

While US companies have been among the industry's leaders, some have complained that restrictive federal regulations have slowed their ability to move forward. It could also help commercial companies itching to start delivering packages by drone.

The idea of drop-delivery discussed by Amazon and other companies should become less cumbersome to bring to market with the creation of sanctioned innovation zones. France, Canada, Switzerland and Iceland are all working on incorporating permanent drone delivery systems.

The pilot program will evaluate a variety of operational concepts, including night operations, flights over people, flights beyond the pilot's line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, counter-UAS security operations, and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft.

Five partnerships can enter the program in the US after the DOT has evaluated applications. The programme would then continue for three more years.

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