US Drone Program Gets Help From Alphabet

Apple to Participate in Government Drone Testing Program

Hundreds of companies are competing for one of 10 slots in a new US drone project

Others including startup Flirtey, which successfully made the first drone delivery in the U.S. in 2015 test, will be using UAVs to deliver medical supplies to heart attack victims in Nevada, track mosquitoes in Florida and develop other new uses. Many leading USA companies are a part of the winning admissions.

The drone testing program, launched by President Donald Trump previous year, selected ten projects that it will offer waivers to for regulations that now ban the use of drones in certain situations in the US. 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.

"Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace", said United States secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao. The United States has lagged other countries in experimentation with drones, something the program hopes to correct.

The pilot program will allow a much larger range of tests than are generally permitted by federal aviation regulators, including flying drones at night, over people and beyond an operator's line of sight.

Each project matches a drone company with a local government to develop the technology, our sister site CNET reported.

The pilot project winners include the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, the Memphis, TN airport, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the Lee County Mosquito Control District, in Fort Myers, FL, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Virginia Tech, the city of San Diego, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the city of Reno, NV.

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The state will also be work with Flytrex, an Israeli startup that recently launched an autonomous drone delivery service in the suburbs of Reykjavik, Iceland. She said the 149 bids for the tests showed the scale of drone innovation that is to come. After all, piloting unmanned drones isn't necessarily the easiest thing to set up even if the regulatory red tape is cut; flying a drone straight and true isn't the easiest thing to do and that's not counting the risk of ploughing into rogue pigeons or avoiding being shot at by gun-totin' rednecks. In the first three years of drone integration, it is predicted that more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion.

Despite being sidelined for now, Amazon and China's SZ DJI Technology both offered support for the program.

Memphis Airport Authority Chief Executive Scott Brockman told Reuters that it had also been picked and that its partner FedEx Corp will use drones to inspect aircraft at its hub in Tennessee as well as parts deliveries for aircraft and some package deliveries between the airport and other Memphis locations.

The FAA has said regulations are necessary to protect the public and the National Airspace System from bad actors or errant hobbyists.

FAA also has sent two proposed regulations for expanding drone flight to the White House for review, Chao said.

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