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USDOT Selects 10 Entities to Test Delivery Drones

11 May 2018
Flirtey drones delivering AED for cardiac arrest victims. Source: Flirtey

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has finalized its Integration Pilot Program (IPP) to accelerate the safe use of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) integration for delivery across the nation.

The federal agency has selected 10 entities for the IPP in order to craft rules that will allow for more complex low-altitude operations, including balancing local and national interests related to UAS integration, improving communications within local, state and tribal jurisdictions, addressing security and privacy risks and accelerating the approval of operations that require special authorizations.

In the 10 tests, operators will evaluate a host of concepts for drone delivery including night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data between the pilot and the aircraft.

The USDOT says the program could help future logistics and operations of the commerce, photography, emergency management, agriculture and infrastructure inspection markets.

The winners (from 149 applications that the USDOT received) include the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the Lee County Mosquito Control District in Ft. Myers, Florida, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Virginia Tech, the city of San Diego, the city of Reno, Nevada, and FedEx in Memphis, Tennessee.

Meanwhile, delivery drone startup Flirtey has announced it has partnered with four of the 10 governments selected by the USDOT.

One application for the drone technology is to deliver AEDs to cardiac arrest patients. The company said that using drones to deliver the medical treatment can increase the survival rate from just 10 percent today to about 47 percent. In Reno, one Flirtey delivery drone has the potential to save at least one life every two weeks, Flirtey said.

Flirtey will work with the four cities in the IPP as well as the USDOT and Federal Aviation Administration for regulatory approvals and engage in community outreach to jumpstart the drone delivery.

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