The United States is far behind other countries when it comes to integrating commercial drones into the airspace. But last week President Trump and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program in hopes of fixing that by jump-starting drone flights beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), nighttime operations and flights over people.
In 2016, the Obama administration opened the skies to small drones for education, research and routine commercial use, but severe restrictions remained. This new program will look to build upon that work by allowing national and local regulators figure out the best way to manage commercial drone use.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates by 2021 commercial drones will grow tenfold to about 442,000. And in less than a decade, the potential economic benefit of integrating commercial drones into the nation’s airspace is estimated to equal up to $82 billion and create up to 100,000 jobs, according to a recent study by AUVSI. The White House said this new program aims to remove the barriers that could restrict the commercial drone industry from taking off in the US.