The commercial drone industry is projected to generate over $82 billion for the U.S. economy and over 100,000 new jobs by 2025. Last week, at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) “Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation” it was announced that several key players (both in the private and government sectors) will launch an accelerated initiative to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the U.S. airspace. Here is a quick summary of those initiatives:

  • The National Science Foundation will contribute $35 million in research funding related to intelligent and effective UAS design, control and application over the next five years.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior will use UAS for search and rescue operations, to augment manned aircraft operations, improve government processes around technological adoption, and increase data sharing of wild fire locations.
  • Collective commitment by UAS industry associations to implement broad educational efforts around privacy best practices.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to publish proposed rule for “Operations of Small UAS over People” this winter.
  • FAA will collaborate with UAS industry stakeholders to charter an Unmanned Aircraft System Team to use a data-driven, consensus-based approach to analyze UAS safety.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will use UAS for precise gravity measurements and augmenting observation capabilities from ships.
  • The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General intends to publish findings and analysis on the public’s evolving opinion of drone delivery as a potential future means of logistics technology.
  • New York State’s Empire State Development will commit $5 million to strengthen the state’s efforts to create a hub for UAS innovation and manufacturing.
  • The Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota plans to start conducting beyond visual line of sight flights that will start on the earth’s surface and reach heights of about 29,000 feet.
  • Zipline International and Ellumen ASD Healthcare, and Bloodworks Northwest plan to use UAS technology to disseminate critical care supplies to remote areas of the U.S.
  • Flirtey and International Medical Corps. plan to focus their efforts on humanitarian applications of UAS technologies.
  • Women of Commercial Drones and the Commercial Drone Alliance are creating a program to advance women’s participation in the UAS industry.
  • DroneBase and Drones & Good will start a program for providing transitioning military veterans with UAS training programs and apprenticeships in the commercial drone industry.
  • Future of Privacy Forum and PrecisionHawk released a report, “Drones and Privacy by Design: Embedding Privacy Enhancing Technology in Unmanned Aircraft.” The report highlights technologies and practices that can help drone operators and commercial drone manufacturers minimize data collection and retention, obfuscate individuals’ images, and better secure the data (especially the personally identifiable data) they collect using UAS technologies.

This is surely an exciting time for commercial drone operators and manufacturers alike. The industry will continue to enhance its technologies and safety features, hopefully with an eye for privacy in the skies.