Meet the 10 participants in the US drone program

After combing through 149 proposals for its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program — which seeks to operationalize drones in safe and unique ways — the U.S. Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, selected 10 winners May 9.   

The pilot program, which was announced in October 2017 as a White House initiative, will provide state and local governments an opportunity to partner with private sector entities to accelerate the integration of drones in the U.S.

Overall, the program aims to tackle the most pressing challenges to safely and effectively use drones. Each pilot program will be tailored to a particular purpose.

"Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace," said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.

Here are the 10 entities selected to participate, along with a brief explanation of their pilot project.

1. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will partner with CNN to test flying drones beyond a pilot's line of sight, according to Gizmodo.

2. City of Reno (Nev.) will partner with Flirtey, a drone delivery service, to test the safety of delivering medical supplies such as defibrillators, EpiPens and opioid overdose antidotes via drones, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

3. City of San Diego will partner with UC San Diego, Qualcomm and Uber to test real-world applications of drones, such as food delivery within minutes, boarder surveillance and transporting blood tests by drone to receive faster results, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

4. Center for Innovative Technology at Virginia Tech will partner with Google's Project Wing, Intel, AT&T, Airbus Aerial, State Farm, Dominion Energy, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Hazon Solutions to study how drones can interact with people, according to The Roanoke Times.

5. Kansas Department of Transportation will partner with Microsoft to track drone deliveries, disaster response and agricultural surveying throughout the state, according to NPR.

6. Lee County Mosquito Control District will use drones to track mosquito larvae in hopes to better control the pests.

7. Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority will partner with FedEx to test using drones to deliver airplane parts to the airport.

8. North Carolina Department of Transportation's project will test drones as a method to deliver medical supplies in hard-to-reach areas in the state. One of its partners is Apple.

9. North Dakota Department of Transportation will work to leverage drone technology to speed up law enforcement and emergency service response times during floods, blizzards and missing people searches, according to KFYR-TV.

10. University of Alaska-Fairbanks will pilot the use of drones to deliver medical devices to remote areas, help with search and rescue operations, survey fish and wildlife, and monitor pipelines, roads and other infrastructure. 

While key players like Google, FedEx and Microsoft were part of the winning proposals, one major player — Amazon — is suspiciously absent from the pilot program. Amazon has expressed interest in drone delivery and aims to create a fleet of unmanned drones that can send packages to customers within 30 minutes.

When asked about the program, Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy, said it was unfortunate its applications were not selected, but it will continue its efforts to develop a safe operating model for drones, according to CNBC.

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