A who’s who of technology and aviation companies won U.S. approval to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people’s tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers’ drones won’t hit crop dusters.
In the most far-reaching test program to date for burgeoning drone commerce, the Department of Transportation announced the selection of 10 state, local and tribal governments — in partnership with companies that may include Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing and Intel Corp. — as social and scientific test beds.
“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.
The communities hosting the pilot projects include San Diego, Raleigh, N.C., Topeka, Kan., Reno, Nev., and Fairbanks, Alaska.
The program was pushed by President Donald Trump’s White House as a way to speed approvals of more far-ranging unmanned flight operations.
The Integration Pilot Program, as it’s called, has created palpable enthusiasm in the drone world, from startups including Flirtey Inc. and AirMap Inc. to established companies developing unmanned devices such as Amazon.com Inc., which wants to deliver packages to people’s homes.
Flirtey, which has tested a variety of ways to deliver goods using small drones, is part of a test program operated by Reno that is one of the 10 winners, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said in a press release May 8.