According to a White House press release dated August 2, 2016, “Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is announcing new steps, sustained by public and private support, to promote the safe integration and innovative adoption of unmanned aircraft systems across the United States… Most notably, these announcements expand on the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s “Small UAS” rule announced earlier this summer to provide national guidelines for the operation of non-recreational unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds.”
Key actions include:
• $35 million in research funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years to accelerate the understanding of how to intelligently and effectively design, control, and apply UAS to beneficial applications. This will include areas such as monitoring and inspection of physical infrastructure, smart disaster response, agricultural monitoring, the study of severe storms, and more;
• A broad range of actions by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to use UAS to support search and rescue operations, to augment manned aircraft operations, and improve government processes around technological adoption;
• A $5 million down-payment by the state of New York to support the growth of the emerging unmanned aircraft systems industry across New York; and
• A collective commitment made by UAS industry associations to implement a broad educational effort around privacy best practices for users of UAS technology, among other private-sector commitments to support UAS technologies.
With respect to expanding existing capabilities through enhanced technology and training, the press release notes that the “Department of the Interior (DOI) which manages one-fifth of all land in the United States, has used unmanned aircraft systems since 2009 to conduct wildlife and vegetation surveys, to protect endangered populations, perform archeological studies, assist in emergency response, conduct wildfire management on a 24-hour-a-day basis, and more.”
DOI commitments include:
• Using unmanned aircraft systems for search-and-rescue operations: DOI will develop and maintain a training program for the use of UAS in Search and Rescue (SAR) by October 2018. This program will allow DOI first responders to rapidly deploy unmanned aircraft technology in critical search-and-rescue situations.
• Developing UAS for augmenting manned aircraft missions: By December 2017, DOI will develop payloads that have traditionally been carried aboard manned aircraft for UAS. This will augment the manned aircraft fleet and result in cost-savings and reduced risk to departmental personnel.
• Rapidly prototyping and approval of new UAS payloads: DOI will develop a process for the rapid prototyping and approval of new UAS payloads for its fleet by January 2018.
This will allow for quick access to new sensor technology for users in the field as technology advances.
• Implementing rapid data processing capabilities: UAS-collected data often requires post-mission processing before it can be used directly by the end user.
• DOI will find innovative solutions for rapid processing of data into usable products for scientists, first responders, and land managers. By FY 2019, DOI will have in place procedures for rapid data processing of UAS-acquired data using the cloud. This will dramatically reduce the time needed to process imagery at a local office.
• Increasing data sharing of wildland fire locations: DOI will share near-realtime fire location information with the public by July 2017 as part of a multifaceted effort to prevent unauthorized drone incursions over active wildfires. Building upon DOI’s 2016 prototype wildland fire location data sharing initiative with three volunteer industry partners, this expanded data sharing initiative will further reduce the risk of drone incursions that jeopardize the safety of wildland firefighters.
For further reading, see:
OSTP Fact Sheet