Drone services edge closer with new projects from major tech firms

Friday, 11 May, 2018

Many folks have purchased drones as novelties, but some of the most interesting work with the aircraft are business uses.

They are part of a White House initiative known as the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program announced in October.

This new initiative, under Trump-appointed transportation secretary Elaine Chao, is meant to speed up the integration of autonomous drones into the U.S. airspace by conducting tests at smaller areas around the country, in partnership with drone-technology companies.

The Cupertino giant said that it has plans to use this testing programme as an opportunity to better Apple Maps after several failures in the past.

The current legislation lags behind the technology in many countries, including the USA 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. A range of tests have been proposed, from search-and-rescue operations and delivering food or medical supplies, to border security.

And it'll ensure drone innovation happens in the United States, Goodwin added. Officials say current regulations have limited drone use, forcing companies to test overseas.

A total of149 bids were drawn from locales looking to host flights at night, flights over people and other drone operations that are now prohibited under U.S. regulations.

Although it's possible to walk into just about any electronics store now and purchase a drone for a relatively small amount of money, the middle ground - that is, using drones for commercial delivery versus making YouTube videos or bombing people in the Middle East - has been a longstanding challenge.

Cupertino was among a handful of companies seeking permission to carry out experimental drone flights beyond the limits now enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Apple wasn't immediately available to comment.

In addition to drone delivery, other potential drone applications include environmental monitoring, overseeing pipelines, using drones near to airports, precision agriculture, and more.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation was one of the awardees, with the FAA describing their proposal as seeking "to test localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations in local communities". FedEx is based in Memphis. In Fort Myers, Florida, drones will be used to survey the mosquito population. Flirtey said in a statement that it and government partners "will now have access to fast-tracked regulatory approvals as they work to expand lifesaving drone delivery operations".

ShotSpotter allows the Louisville Metro Police Department to triangulate coordinates of the sound of gunfire within roughly 80 feet, and the city's drone application indicated that the camera footage from such drones would be monitored by the LMPD's Real Time Crime Center. The awardee, along with partners CNN and the Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory, has an aggressive 90-day schedule for high-profile Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) and night operations.