White House Announces New Commitment to Drones

commercial dronesThe White House published a Fact Sheet yesterday, announcing their commitment to promoting commercial drones and discussing the initiatives planned to boost the drone industry.

The publication came as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held a Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation, emphasizing partnerships between government and industry and acknowledging the significant economic impact that the drone industry offers.

The Fact Sheet says that the key initiatives to support the industry include:

  • $35 million in research funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years “to accelerate the understanding of how to intelligently and effectively design, control, and apply UAS to beneficial applications;”
  • A “broad range of actions” by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to use drones for a variety of purposes, including search and rescue;
  • A $5 million initial investment by New York state “to support the growth of the emerging unmanned aircraft systems industry across New York;” and
  • “A collective commitment made by UAS industry associations to implement a broad educational effort around privacy best practices for users of UAS technology, among other private-sector commitments to support UAS technologies.”


Enabling Expanded Drone Operations

The Fact Sheet says that the FAA is “working on the next regulatory steps for safely integrating UAS in the airspace,” and that a proposed rule for Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People should be available for public comment by this winter.  Additionally, the announcement says that the FAA will cooperate with the drone industry to create an “Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team (UAST), ” which will bring government and industry stakeholders together to analyze safety data and determine the best methods of mitigating risk.

The White House says that other federal agencies will contribute to innovation in the drone industry.  NASA and the FAA will continue to work together on developing a drone traffic management system (UTM) which will allow for integration of drones into the NAS.  The Department of the Interior will research many aspects of drone use in the public sector; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will continue to expand its use of drones.  And the US Postal Service will take a look at drone delivery: the USPS will “publish new findings and analysis on the public’s rapidly-evolving opinion of drone delivery as a potential future logistics technology.”

Collaboration with Industry Groups

In accordance with the White House’s continued theme of collaboration with industry, the announcement listed numerous drone advocacy groups that they are working with.  The list was not limited to commercial or industrial groups, but included the newly formed Women in Commercial Drones group which will promote STEM education and support young girls and women entering the drone industry, and the Drone Racing League, supporting and promoting the new sport of drone racing.

Both the Workshop and the Fact Sheet represent a shift in tone from policy makers, who are now vocal in their support for the drone industry and the potential economic benefits that the industry offers.


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