The FAA’s three-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) successfully concluded on Oct. 25, 2020.
Since then, eight of the nine state, local, and tribal governments that participated in the program have signed new agreements with the FAA to continue tackling the remaining UAS integration challenges.
“The three years of information gathered under the drone Integration Pilot Program will be applied to a new initiative called BEYOND, which will further advance the safe integration of drones into our national air space,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
“The IPP propelled the American drone industry forward, allowing for unprecedented expansions in testing and operations through innovative private-public partnerships across the country. Now, the BEYOND program will build upon this success, tackling the next big challenges facing drone integration,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios.
A Presidential Memorandum launched the IPP in October 2017, setting off a competitive selection process from 149 applicants. The IPP participants and their industry partners crafted successful safety cases to operate under the FAA’s existing regulations, according to FAA officials.
Participants used the regulations to conduct package delivery, inspect pipelines and power lines, assess flood damage, count cattle, respond to 911 calls, inspect aircraft and many other missions.
“The data from these flights has informed ongoing rulemaking, policy and guidance, and will continue to support future efforts,” FAA officials said.
“At the onset of the public health emergency, many of the IPP participants were able to pivot from their original missions to support the COVID-19 response and recovery, demonstrating the increasing value of drone operations in this new environment,” added FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
Eight of the nine participants selected for IPP will participate in BEYOND, including:
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority of Virginia
- Kansas Department of Transportation
- Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority
- North Carolina Department of Transportation
- North Dakota Department of Transportation
- City of Reno, Nevada
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks
BEYOND Program Overview
The remaining challenges of UAS integration BEYOND will tackle include:
- Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations that are repeatable, scalable and economically viable with specific emphasis on infrastructure inspection, public operations, and small package delivery.
- Leveraging industry operations to better analyze and quantify the societal and economic benefits of UAS operations.
- Focusing on community engagement efforts to collect, analyze and address community concerns.
The program will focus on operating under established rules rather than waivers, collecting data to develop performance-based standards, collecting and addressing community feedback and understanding the societal and community benefits, and to streamline the approval processes for UAS integration, FAA officials explained.