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ACUASI selected for new federal drone program

An ACUASI Responder unmanned
helicopter sits near a glacier.
Photo courtesy ACUASI

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will join a new federal initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones in America.

The U.S. Department of Transportation selected UAF as one of 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.

The program allows state, local and tribal governments to work with drone operators and manufacturers to speed up the safe entry of unmanned vehicles into the nation’s airspace.

“We are thrilled to have brought a UAS Integration Pilot Program home to Alaska,” said Cathy Cahill, the director of the Alaska Center for UAS Integration in the UAF Geophysical Institute. “The 21 partners associated with our proposal represent the best UAS manufacturers, technology developers, operators and public and private end users from Alaska and the rest of the U.S. The talent associated with this partnership should move the safe operation of UAS in Alaska airspace forward significantly.”

The UAF team proposed several ways to pioneer safe drone use in Alaska — to deliver medical devices to remote areas, help with search and rescue operations, survey fish and wildlife, and monitor pipelines, roads and other infrastructure. The pilot program’s faster approvals and other benefits will allow far more timely drone launches than are currently possible.

The pilot program is expected to help clarify how best to balance local and national interests in unmanned aircraft usage. It also will give federal officials information about the integration of drones into the National Airspace System.

“We are looking forward to helping today’s winners unlock the enormous potential of drone operations, which will create new services and jobs in their local communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

ON THE WEB: More information on the UAS Integration Pilot Program can be found at https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/uas_integration_pilot_prog....

ARCHIVE OF ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO: DOT streamed the announcementvia Facebook Live on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/USDOT. The video of the announcement is archived there.