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August 3, 2016
The US government has announced new steps to progress the development and integration of unmanned drones across the country.
The news from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy comes a week after the UK government announced plans to work alongside Amazon to allow the devices to deliver packages to British homes. The US government has previously blocked attempts by the retailer to launch a similar project in the states.
The progress of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) has been touted as a means to increase connectivity in some of the world’s most rural areas. Facebook and Google have been running numerous projects to deliver connectivity including Project Loon and Project Aquila, which uses balloons and drones respectively. Although the commitment is a strong statement by the White House, it would appear to relatively slow off the mark, considering the initiatives to deliver connectivity to all areas of the country has been a priority for the government for a number of years.
“These announcements build on the Administration’s efforts over the past seven and a half years to support the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the highly-complex network that comprises the National Airspace System, including: air navigation and air traffic control facilities, airports, technology, and the appropriate rules and regulations,” a statement said.
The announcement focused on four areas specifically. Firstly, the National Science Foundation will commit to $35 million in research funding over the next five years. The research will focus on how UAS should be designed for specific use cases including monitoring and inspection of physical infrastructure, smart disaster response, agricultural monitoring and the study of severe storms.
Secondly, the US Department of the Interior will undertake a number of reviews to assess how the government can improve its adoption of new technology. Thirdly, a collective commitment made by UAS industry associations to implement a broad educational effort around privacy best practices for users of UAS technology. Finally, the state of New York will also make a $5 million down-payment, to support the growth of the emerging unmanned aircraft systems industry across New York.
Although this is still early days for the technology, the potential is already being talked up by industry giants such as Facebook and Amazon. The long-term benefits in connectivity could solve numerous challenges for larger countries such as the US, but there could also be a useful cross over into the growing world of IoT, adding a further dimension.
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