On October 25, 2017, the Trump administration announced a three-year pilot program for state, local and tribal governments to explore integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in their local communities. Interested governments must apply to be selected for one of at least five participant openings. The Department of Transportation will consider multiple factors when selecting participants, including diversity of the proposed models of government involved, location of critical infrastructure, involvement of commercial entities and commitment to realizing certain UAS benefits.

The launch of this pilot program indicates that the Trump administration may intend for state, local and tribal governments to play an integral role in drone regulation. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration has been developing drone regulations from a national perspective, and local communities have not had an opportunity to explore solutions to integration issues that concern them.

The program also provides an opportunity for private entities to shape drone regulation. Specifically, it envisions public-private partnerships to evaluate the use of drones in local communities. Thus, businesses that intend to use drones in populated areas could benefit from partnering with local governments to participate in the program.

The DOT will issue additional details about the program and the application process in the next few days. A deadline for proposals has not yet been announced.