Fittingly, North Carolina – the “First in Flight” State – is among the list of applicants to join the program, which is described by the FAA as “an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration.”
The NC Department of Transportation received the accolade last week after an announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. The DOT will work with UAV delivery companies such as Zipline, Matternet and Flytrex, to create a network of medical distribution centers that deploy drones to make medical deliveries.
“Blood and other supplies currently travel by courier to hospitals and testing facilities. With drones, medical providers would get the test results and supplies they need much faster,” an agency press release notes. NCDOT has already collaborated with Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk to create an Unmanned Traffic Management system.
“North Carolina has always been on the forefront of aviation innovation and now is a national leader in drone safety education and use,” said Chief Deputy Secretary David Howard, who attended the announcement on behalf of NCDOT. “Being selected for this program will allow us to learn more about how drones can safely be used in new ways to help our citizens.”
According to the FAA: “The results from the Program will help to inform the development of future enabling regulations that will expand safe UAS operations and help to transition many of the new and novel operational concepts that we manage today by exception into routine, commonplace aspects of our everyday lives.”
For NCDOT, the new program marks steady progress towards the goal of making the state drone-friendly. In April, the agency created a set of best practices for drone use in disaster analysis, search-and-rescue and other government responses. The final report was released after NCDOT’s Division of Aviation held a workshop with emergency management officials. In September, NCDOT released a feasibility study earlier this year with a plan to use drones to create 3D models of auto crash scenes.