Published: Thu, May 10, 2018
Sci-tech | By Lila Blake

USA drone programme taps Alphabet, passes over Amazon, China's DJI

USA drone programme taps Alphabet, passes over Amazon, China's DJI

Flirtey previously partnered with emergency medical services provider Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority to launch the first drone delivery service for automated external defibrillators in the U.S. Now, the vision is to deliver packages using drones with its customers, which include FedEx, 7-Eleven and Domino's Pizza Inc., ultimately bringing drone delivery to homes across America.

The Drone Integration Pilot Program (IPP) announced by the Trump administration previous year has generated tremendous interest in the U.S. Both state and local governments and drone industry players have applied for the opportunity to have a voice in drone integration: of the hundreds of applications the FAA has selected 10 partners to kick off the program.

Notable absentees from the approved list of 10 pilots were Amazon, which applied for a project to deliver goods within New York City, and the world's largest non-military drone manufacturer, DJI.

Approximately 200 companies spanning 149 applications are vying to be part of the program.

"We're focused on developing a safe operating model for drones in the airspace and we will continue our work to make this a reality", said Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy. Asked about Amazon's absence, Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeff Rosen cited a rigorous process and said there were "no losers". The flights will begin in rural areas and the company will share data with the FAA before securing approvals to deliver to more urban locations in Reno.

AirMap, an airspace management company for drones, said it was on six winning applications. Officials say current regulations have limited drone use, forcing companies to test overseas.

Although it's possible to walk into just about any electronics store now and purchase a drone for a relatively small amount of money, the middle ground - that is, using drones for commercial delivery versus making YouTube videos or bombing people in the Middle East - has been a longstanding challenge. Another partner is General Electric Co, he said. After both are formally proposed, it could take months before they are finalized. The data collected from these operations will help the USDOT and the FAA craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations, identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration, improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions, address security and privacy risks, and accelerate the approval of operations that now require special authorizations. The wide interest in the USA initiative, launched by President Donald Trump past year, underscores the desire of a broad range of companies to have a say in how the fledgling industry is regulated and ultimately win authority to operate drones for purposes ranging from package delivery to crop inspection.

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