By Ben Husch
States have until Nov. 28 to file their intent to apply to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aerial System (drones) pilot program.
The FAA formally announced the full details and application process earlier this month, one week after President Donald Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish such a program.
The pilot program would allow states, local, and tribal governments along with other public entities, such as airports and port authorities, to jointly propose new kinds of drone operations, with an industry partner, that go beyond existing prohibitions on certain types of operations. These include beyond-visual-line-of-sight, nighttime operations and flights over people.
Most important, the FAA noted during a follow up Q&A, that it would welcome applications that included reasonable time, place and manner restrictions as a component of the application. FAA stressed that the goal of this program was to develop a framework by which drones could be both effectively integrated into our economy while also maintaining public safety.
If a state is interested in submitting an application, it must file a notice of intent with the FAA by Nov. 28. Following this, all applicants will be given access to an online portal to complete their application by early January.
The FAA will then choose a minimum of five applications 180 days after the deadline, with the pilot program lasting for a maximum of three years. A state that does not signal its intent by Nov. 28 will not be allowed to participate in the pilot program at this time, although the FAA noted there may be a second round of applications later.
NCSL is a member of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Subcommittee that is also exploring the proper role for states when it comes to drones.
We will continue to follow and report on any new developments, but please feel free to reach out to NCSL staff Ben Husch (202-624-7779) and Kristen Hildreth (202-624-3597) if you have any questions or concerns.
Ben Husch is senior committee director of NCSL's Natural Resoures and Infrastructure committee.