Apple wants official permission to test new drone program

Apple drone

FedEx will use drones to inspect aircraft at its Tennessee hub and for some package deliveries between the airport and other Memphis locations. In Reno, Nev., they will test airlifting life-saving defibrillators to patients. Having partnerships with state and local governments means that there's a way to accommodate concerns like local restrictions on times for package delivery.

While specific details on the program were not immediately revealed, it is possible that the testing will look into drone usage in medical transport, food delivery, and even border surveillance.

The wide interest in the US initiative, launched by President Donald Trump past year, underscores the desire of a broad range of companies to have a say in how the fledgling industry is regulated and ultimately win authority to operate drones for purposes ranging from package delivery to crop inspection.

"This is such an exciting day for aviation, for safety, for innovation", U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

Flying taxis are the most high profile of the current drone development projects, with Google co-founder Larry Page's Kitty Hawk unveiling its designs in March and Uber holding a conference for its Elevate programme this week.

The agency announced 10 states that will participate in the the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, an effort that aims to study the potential uses of drones in agriculture, commerce, emergency management, and human transportation.

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who is up for re-election in November, said in a press release the city of Reno was named one of the winners. Intel and two GE subsidiaries are partners for the Memphis project. This latter point is particularly crucial for drone-based deliveries. The data can be used to help develop future regulations allowing widespread and routine deliveries.

"There's a lot of excitement", said Lisa Ellman, a partner in the Washington office of law firm Hogan Lovells, who represents companies in the industry.

Drone tracking service AirMap, which acts as an air traffic controller for the drone industry, is a partner in six of the winning programs.

"By tackling these challenges head-on, I think we're going to get to better paradigms for how drones can operate around people - and make money in the process", Goodwin said.

Handling local issues, such as whether your neighbor can get a package delivered by drone at midnight, would be a hard challenge for the Federal Aviation Administration, according to experts.

Launched last year, the new U.S. drone testing initiative puts the country on the map of countries with standardised drone regulation mechanisms, a sector where USA had been lagging for the past few years.

Pilot projects will send drones where no drones have gone before.

The integration program, announced last October, is created to allow state, local and tribal governments to test more complex types of flights than are allowed under current regulations. Transportation officials say 149 applications were received. Including flying drones at night and beyond an operator's line of vision in the United States.

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