Airbus, Uber, MS join new US drone programme

Apple drone

FedEx, GE and Intel drones will inspect aircraft and runways at Memphis International Airport (coincidentally FedEx's US operations hub).

The FAA is seeking to allow drones to fly over people and to remotely identify and track unmanned aerial vehicles while they are in flight, with two new regulations awaiting formal proposal and approval by the Trump administration - a process that could take months. Examples include flying drones at night, as well as flying them beyond an operator's line on sight.

The Department of Transportation left Amazon out of a list of companies that will be conducting a test to push for package delivery using drones.

The city of San Diego is partnering with the city of Chula Vista, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and other local groups in the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program".

The 10 pilot winners include the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, in Durant, Oklahoma; the City of San Diego, California; the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, in Herndon, Virginia; the Kansas Department of Transportation; the Lee County Mosquito Control District in Fort Meyers, Florida; the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; the North Carolina Department of Transportation; the North Dakota Department of Transportation; the City of Reno, Nevada; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Flirtey, which has tested a variety of ways to deliver goods using small drones, is part of a test program operated by Reno, Nevada, that is one of the 10 winners, Senator Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, said in a press release Tuesday. Virginia Tech said that it would explore emergency management, package delivery and infrastructure inspection by drone, partnering with Alphabet's Project Wing, AT&T, Intel, Airbus and Dominion Energy.

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The current legislation lags behind the technology in many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, with most novel uses ruled out by regulations that prohibit the flying of drones over people and out of the line of sight. "I do think it's a big step forward".

Apple plans to launch the use of drones to get a better quality of Apple Maps in 2016. So far, regulations don't permit flights over people or over long distances, and the agency has been cautious about approving waivers to allow such operations.

The start by the US government previous year which will allow for a larger scale of testing.

Once the winners are announced, "the FAA will be reaching out to other applicants, as well as interested state and local authorities, to provide additional information on how to operationalize their proposed projects", Lawrence said in his remarks.

Chao said companies that didn't win should keep the federal government abreast of their work, because there were "no losers" after yesterday's announcement. Researchers hope to make drone deliveries a routine part of life in the state, though feedback from local residents will determine the technology's future. So-called beyond-visible-line-of-sight flights offer some of the greatest potential for commercial operations, but they also are among the most hard technically to ensure they don't strike other aircraft or veer off course.

With assistance from Thomas Black.

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