Reuters reported Tuesday that major technology and aerospace companies including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc and Airbus SE are vying to take part in the new slate of drone tests. The FAA still must decide questions before the pilot projects begin including whether drone deliveries should follow city streets or cross backyards.
Chao, who called the rapidly developing drone industry the biggest development since the jet age, said about 150 applications were received.
One clear victor was Nevada-based Flirtey, a drone delivery startup. Flirtey said in a statement that it and government partners "will now have access to fast-tracked regulatory approvals as they work to expand lifesaving drone delivery operations". "Businesses, governments, nonprofits, academics and many others want to be able to use drones in their work, and the proposals selected today will make significant progress in helping America accomplish that goal while protecting safety and addressing local concerns", Schulman said. She said the administration must "create a path forward" to ensure the safe integration of drones.
Amazon, which hopes to one day deliver packages with a fleet of drones, said it was unfortunate its applications were not selected but supports the US efforts. "There were no losers - only winners", Rosen said.
Flirtey pioneered the first FAA-approved fully autonomous drone delivery in an urban environment on March 25, 2015 in Hawthorne.
The company has worked with the FAA on policy as it tested drone technology around the world. The United States has lagged other countries in experimentation with drones, something the program hopes to correct.
Nevada also submitted a statewide application that included dozens of partners from Nevada-grown companies and Fortune 50 corporations. Uber is working on air-taxi technology and will deliver food by drone in San Diego, California, because "we need flying burgers" said the company's chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.
Reuters reports that the program would exempt participating companies from four FAA regulations. The winning projects reportedly focus on things like package delivery, agriculture, and flying drones near airports. General Electric Co is also a partner, he said.
Earlier, the department confirmed it had sent two planned rules to the White House to regulate the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The contest drew 149 bids from locales looking to host flights at night, flights over people and other drone operations that USA rules prohibit. The data collected from these operations will help the USDOT and the FAA craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations, identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration, improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions, address security and privacy risks, and accelerate the approval of operations that now require special authorizations.