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Questions and Answers on UAS Integration Pilot Program

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Q: What’s the purpose of this program?
A: The purpose of the program is to explore ways to safely expand cutting-edge drone operations into the National Airspace by pairing state, local, and tribal governments with unmanned aircraft operators.

Q: How does this initiative differ from existing programs?
A: This program takes collaboration to a new level by enabling local, state, or tribal governments to determine what kind of activities will occur in their jurisdictions during the period of the pilot program and subject to FAA safety oversight. It also gives a wider range of private operators and localities the chance to propose solutions to the most difficult integration challenges.

Q: Who can participate?
A: The Presidential Memorandum envisions that state, local and tribal governments, or combinations thereof, could participate by forming partnerships with other public and private sector partners.  The Department will announce additional details in the coming days.

Q: Can law enforcement agencies participate?
A: Yes, the Presidential Memorandum envisions participation by law enforcement, which are key players in unmanned aircraft security issues.

Q: Can the purpose of a partnership be to impose restrictions on UAS use?
A: The Presidential Memorandum envisions that partnerships could give local officials an opportunity to help to manage local operations subject to FAA safety oversight.  The Department will announce additional details in the coming days. 

Q: Is there a time limit on the program?
A: The program will run for three years.

Q: Does that mean the kind of activities that are expected to be part of the program - operations over people, package delivery, beyond visual line of sight operations - won't be routinely allowed for at least three years?
A: Absolutely not! The timetable for allowing any kind of operation is not tied to the lifecycle of this pilot program. The FAA allows new types of operations when it determines they can be conducted safely and subject to existing authority provided by Congress. If the FAA determines a type of operation that's being evaluated as part of the pilot program could be conducted safely and routinely, the FAA could authorize that operation before the program ends.

Q: Let's say a partnership is allowed to conduct operations, such as flights over people, which are not currently allowed without a waiver. Will that partnership be able to continue conducting these operations once the program ends if those operations are still not routinely allowed elsewhere?
A: No, not without further coordination with the FAA. This program will explore advanced operations and new models of cooperation with local governments for a period of three years, with the goal of enabling advanced operations on a long term basis through rulemakings. 

Q: How many applications will be accepted?
A: As directed by the Presidential Memorandum, the DOT will select at least five partnerships.

Q: What are the new restrictions under the program and who will decide these parameters?
A: Safety rules will be developed on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the type of planned operation. The FAA will review all proposals to ensure they meet the highest safety standards.

Q: Will private companies, such as Amazon, be free to operate drones over populated or sensitive areas?
A: The Department will address this issue in its guidance to be released in the coming days.

Q: What are low-altitude operations?
A: Low-altitude operations are operations that take place below 200 feet and in certain cases up to 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).

Q: What does ‘beyond visual line of sight’ mean?
A: Beyond visual line of sight operations are operations that take place beyond the pilot's line of sight. In other words, the pilot cannot see the aircraft with his or her naked eye.

Q: What if I want to participate but can’t find a partner?
A: The Department will describe the process for forming partnerships in the coming days. 

Q: How much federal money will be spent on the program?
A: The Department will address this question in its guidance, to be released in the coming days. 

Q: What Information must the application include?
A: The Department will address this question in its guidance, to be released in the coming days.

Q: What criteria will be used to evaluate the applications?
A: The Department will address this question in its guidance, to be released in the coming days.

Q. Does the pilot program include security and privacy considerations?
A. Yes, as noted in the Presidential Memorandum, it absolutely will. In implementing the pilot program, DOT will coordinate with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the Attorney General to test counter-UAS capabilities, as well as platform and system-wide cybersecurity, as appropriate and consistent with U.S. law.

Last updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2017