Trump signs executive memorandum loosening regulations on commercial drones

By: Theo Nichols

October 27, 2017

DHL delivery drone, Credit: Flickr

President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Memorandum creating the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program. The UAS pilot program allows drone operators and manufacturers, such as Amazon and DJI, to test new drone technologies outside of the regulatory framework of FAA Part 107 regulations, which places BVLOS, altitude, and other flight restrictions on commercial drone flights.

Under the new Executive Memorandum, drone operators and manufacturers working along with local governments can conduct trial drone flights during the nighttime, over people, or beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) of the pilot. The Executive Memorandum is a win for commercial drone operators who have been pushing for the U.S. government to liberalize regulations governing commercial drone operations. However, the pilot program will be limited to a select few operators and is expected to be fully implemented in about a year.

Many operators and manufacturers, such as Google’s Project Wing drone delivery outfit, have shifted their flight test operations to other countries with more open regulatory regimes for commercial drone flights as the U.S. has been slow to open its airspace to commercial drones.

For the commercial drone industry, the Integration Pilot Program is a step in the right direction but will not lead to the widespread integration of complex drone systems into the airspace, The FAA is still working on a more permanent set of commercial drone regulations that will replace Part 107. There is no timetable for when those regulations will be released.

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