McGuireWoods Consulting team
Nov 8, 2017

Department of Transportation Releases Details for Drone Pilot Program Implementation

On Oct. 25, President Trump announced that he is directing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program by which state, local and tribal government entities, in partnership with the private sector, will test advanced drone operations and inform future rulemakings to support UAS integration.

Today, DOT published a Federal Register notice outlining implementation details that officially kicks off the application process for Lead Applicants (state, local and tribal entities) and Interested Parties (private sector entities).

  • Within 20 calendar days: Lead Applicants must submit a Notice of Intent with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Within 35 calendar days: Lead Applicants must complete Volumes I and II in the FAA application portal.
  • Within 35 calendar days: Private entities can request inclusion on a public Interested Parties List that Lead Applicants can source for potential partners.
  • Within 57 calendar days: Lead Applicants complete Volumes III, IV, V and VI in the FAA application portal.
  • Within 180 calendar days: Lead Applicants are selected by FAA and enter into agreements with the FAA.

Private sector entities are not required to register interest with the FAA and may work directly with one or more Lead Applicants. DOT will select a minimum of five jurisdictions to participate in the pilot program. Once selected, applicants will be required to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the FAA within five days.

The program represents a welcome step toward accelerated authorization of expanded drone operations beyond the current scope of FAA regulations. Selected participants will have the opportunity to test operations beyond the visual line of sight, over people and carrying property, enabling drone operations that will save time, money and lives.

State, local and tribal entities selected to move forward with their proposals will attract investment and a reputation as a proving ground for UAS research and development efforts. McGuireWoods stands ready to leverage our deep bench of state and local government affairs professionals — including McGuireWoods Consulting’s industry-leading emerging technologies practice — and extensive experience navigating successful public-private partnerships to assist government and nongovernment entities interested in this highly selective program.