Yesterday’s announcement of the chosen participants in the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) was exciting news for the state, local, and tribal governments listed. It was good news for the technology partners named on those programs. And it was very good news for Amazon, Google and other stakeholders in drone delivery – even those that may not participating directly in the program.
Half of the ten projects named include drone delivery in some form. The San Diego project “focuses on border protection and package delivery of food,” the FAA announcement says. The Herndon, VA project “seeks to facilitate package delivery in rural and urban settings.” Memphis, TN appears at first glance to be a UTM project: but they will concentrate “on the inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations that support airport operations such as perimeter security surveillance and package delivery.”
Raleigh, NC “seeks to test localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations in local communities. This approach enables small businesses to utilize this delivery platform for commercial purposes.” And Reno, NV will “focus on the time-sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment, such as medical defibrillators in emergency situations in both urban and rural environments.”
Retail drone delivery is currently something of a pariah in the U.S. – while modest tests have been completed with 7-Eleven Slurpees in NV and Chipotle burritos in VA, major providers like Amazon have been forced to test overseas. Medical delivery is a key application with enormous potential to save lives. It makes sense to frame projects around that application. But when these projects are completed, the airspace may be open for drone delivery of all types – even in urban spaces. Research from these projects combined with progress on UTM should open drone delivery in the U.S. – creating a lot more winners than the 10 listed yesterday.