New US regulations on drone testing will spur business innovations

New US regulations on drone testing will spur business innovations

San Diego is among 10 areas around the USA that will take part in a federal program that is testing drone technology and innovation.

If Apple's plans for its drones and privacy *ahem* just work then we could be set to see Apple Maps get a much-needed kick up the backside with accurate data and mapping that will help it compete with the mighty Google Maps.

With new federal support announced Wednesday, it's a good day for drone companies trying to make their way into an airspace that's crowded with regulations, safety concerns, social difficulties and other obstacles.

The contest drew 149 bids from locales looking to host flights at night, flights over people and other drone operations that US rules prohibit.

The Integration Pilot Program aims to address the challenges of integrating drones into the national airspace, as well as reduce risks to public safety and security, according to a USDOT press release.

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Drone companies will be matched with state or local governments in the journey to develop the technology in various areas.

Steven Bradbury, a lawyer for the federal Transportation Department, said drones have caused some "apprehension" with the public but one of the initiative's biggest goals will be increased "community awareness and acceptance" of unmanned aircraft.

Reno, Nevada-based drone delivery company Flirtey will work with four of the 10 cities on its project to carry defibrillators to heart attack patients. Asked about Amazon's absence, Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeff Rosen cited a rigorous process and said there were "no losers".

A who's who of technology and aviation companies won USA approval May 9 to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people's tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers' drones won't hit crop dusters.

"This gives it the ability to move into any geography in the United States and move out of test mode into full operation", said Mark Siegel, a partner at Menlo Ventures, an investor in Flirtey.

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Numerous programs include plans to fly on longer-range operations outside of the view of a drone's ground operator. Applicants include giants in the tech and aerospace sectors, including Intel, Apple, Airbus, and Qualcomm. DJI's widely used products may play a role in some projects, even if the company does not formally take part.

In addition to drone delivery, other potential drone applications include environmental monitoring, overseeing pipelines, using drones near to airports, precision agriculture, and more.

Uber will work with San Diego to create drone landing stations and ports.

"There's a lot of excitement", said Lisa Ellman, a partner in the Washington office of law firm Hogan Lovells, who represents companies in the industry. Several incidents around major airports have involved drones getting close to aircraft.

FAA also has sent two proposed regulations for expanding drone flight to the White House for review, Chao said. They'll collect information related to night operations, detect-and-avoid technology and flights beyond the line of sight and over people.

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