The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (“UAS” or “Drone”) Integration Pilot Program is an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration into the public space.  The pilot program, which was just rolled-out on November 8, 2017, is the FAA’s response to the President’s declaration that “it is the policy of the United States to promote the safe operation of UAS and enable the development of UAS technologies ….”

The purpose of the Pilot Program is to identify and define operational concepts, for instance package deliveries by drone or checking crops for disease, and determine how to manage them at the local level in concert with the FAA.  The pilot program affords a municipality and/or private entity the operational construct under which to develop UAS technologies for the agricultural, commerce, emergency management, and other sectors in a safe and efficient manner.  In other words, the FAA will work with approved municipalities and private sector entities to streamline the regulatory process in exchange for access to UAS data and innovation—think of it as the TSA’s pre-check process and line at the airport.

Only a limited number of program licenses will be granted by the FAA during this initial phase of the pilot program.  Eligible applicants include: state, local, and tribal transit agencies, port authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, police departments and other political subdivisions of state or local governments.  Therefore, if you are a New York municipality or IDA looking to attract new business, or if you are located near the UTM project at Griffiss International Airport, or if a strong part of your regional economy is agriculture (dairy, wine, etc.), or if you have an interest expanding emergency services through the use of drones, or, conversely, have a concern about the use of drones within your municipality, then please contact us regarding how to access this program.  Time is of the essence, however, because the window for the initial round of applications is open for less than a month and closes on November 28, 2017.  There are multiple steps in the UAS Pilot Program application process.