United States: Drone Integration Pilot Program Launches With Aggressive Timeline

Joel Roberson is a Partner, Jim Rodriguez is a Senior Counsel and Jennifer M. Nowak is an Associate at our Washington, D.C. office.


  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have already launched a three-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program announced in the Presidential Memorandum released on Oct. 25, 2017.
  • Interested state, local and tribal governments must submit a notice of intent to participate by Nov. 28, 2017.
  • The FAA is "anxious to be surprised" by innovative applications that push the boundaries.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Nov. 2, 2017, fulfilled President Donald Trump's directive, issued in a Presidential Memorandum on Oct. 25, 2017, to launch a three-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, or drone) Integration Pilot Program. The program is designed to safely test innovative small UAS operations in partnership with state, local and tribal jurisdictions, and generate data for future UAS policy and rulemaking. As previously noted (see Holland & Knight's alert, " Presidential Memorandum Launches New Pilot Program to Test Drone Operations," Oct. 26, 2017), the program will proceed under an aggressive timeline, with the first program deadline set for Nov. 28, 2017, for applicants to express an interest in participating.1

During a high-profile media event at DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C., representatives of state, local and tribal governments, as well as industry stakeholders, gathered with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and government leaders from various states to kick off the program. Chao touted the program as a step towards addressing the biggest technological challenge in aviation since the dawn of the jet age. The speakers talked about existing local UAS operations, including the pivotal role played by drones in disaster relief following the recent devastating hurricanes, where FAA granted more than 300 authorizations for UAS operations on an expedited basis. The speakers also focused on the need for a framework that allows governmental jurisdictions to participate in the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace.

Following the media event, FAA also held a Community and Partnership Engagement Briefing to inform government and industry stakeholders about the newly released program details and to answer questions. Concurrent to the meeting, the pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice announcing the start of the pilot program was released, and FAA's web content providing details on the program and the application process also went live.  

Key Highlights of the Program Details and FAA Stakeholder Briefing

The pre-publication notice and the FAA's website provide specifics about eligibility, timeline and content for the application process. The notice is slated to be published in the Federal Register on Nov. 8, 2017. Lead Applicants will then have 20 days, or until Nov. 28, 2017, to submit notices of intent to the FAA to seek to participate in the program. Interested Parties have 35 days, or until Dec. 13, 2017, to be listed as potential partners. During the stakeholder briefing, FAA stressed that if a jurisdiction or private sector industry stakeholder has any interest in participating, it must meet these deadlines, even if it has not yet formulated a final plan for the project or if it does not yet have a partner.

FAA will award a minimum of five pilot program designations, although several senior DOT and FAA officials expressed that it is their desire to award more than five designations. FAA's ability to do so is limited only by feasibility of the proposals submitted and available resources. The program allows FAA to approve applications on a rolling basis, which means that even if only five awards are made initially, FAA could approve a timely submitted application at any time within the three years. While it is not currently anticipated, there is some potential that based on the performance of the initial approved sites, FAA may re-open another application period during the three-year program if resources permit.

The intent of the program is to gather safety data on expanded drone operations, create a framework for state, local and tribal participation, and lay the basis for rulemaking that would allow nationwide expanded operations.

Application and Program Details


  • Lead Applicants are state, local or tribal governmental entities. Industry stakeholders must team with state, local and tribal governments to be eligible. If chosen for the program, the Lead Applicant becomes the Lead Participant.
  • Interested Parties are any entities that wish to be listed on the FAA contracting website as potential partners for one or more Lead Applicants. Presumably, they are mostly private entities with technological, operational or other relevant expertise. However, Lead Applicants looking for one or more private sector partners may also submit a request to be listed. Interested parties have 35 days from publication of the Federal Register notice to request listing on the FAA website.
  • Role of the FAA: In addition to reviewing and approving applications, FAA's role will primarily be to provide safety advice and gather data on the safety performance of the expanded operations.


  • Type of Expanded Operations: During the stakeholder briefing, the FAA speakers emphasized that the agency is interested in innovative, diverse and aggressive proposals, even stating that they were "anxious to be surprised" by proposals. The speakers would not foreclose any potential type of proposal that would meet the goals of the program and urged attendees to "push the boundaries." The FAA is expecting to see proposals that will employ advanced operations, such as beyond visual line-of-sight operations, operations over people and nighttime operations.
  • Examples of potential proposals provided by FAA:
    1. operations to support inspections of critical infrastructure and environmental concerns
    2. emergency and medical response support (e.g., firefighting, medical supply delivery, search and rescue)
    3. disaster relief (e.g. damage assessment, search and rescue, insurance appraisals, supply delivery)
    4. news reporting
    5. transportation and hazardous materials safety (e.g., contamination containment and assessment)
    6. human transportation (flying cars or electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft)
    7. crop, herd and wildlife management
  • The FAA noted that successful applicants will have:
    1. a well-defined framework for managing the drones in the operations proposed
    2. one or more strong industry partners, with focus on areas that push the current regulatory limitations, such as beyond visual line-of-sight operations, operations over people, and nighttime operations
    3. a method for providing data to support new or revised regulations
    4. a description of how the Lead Participant will anticipate and react to safety issues that might occur
  • Screening Criteria: Full evaluation criteria can be found in the FAA Screening Information Request (SIR), also located on the FAA pilot program website.


  • Duration: The program will run for three years from the date of the Presidential Memorandum, unless extended by the Secretary of Transportation.
  • Deadlines:
    • Nov. 28, 2017 – Lead Applicants must submit a Notice of Intent
    • Dec. 13, 2017 – Interested Parties must sign up to be listed
    • Dec. 13, 2017 – The first two volumes of the application must be completed
    • Jan. 4, 2018 – If the first two volumes are approved, the remaining four volumes of the application must be completed
  • Decisions: FAA will approve applications on a rolling basis thereafter, with the goal of selecting at least five proposals. Within 180 days of the Federal Register notice publication, participants will need to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the FAA.


The goals of the program are:

  • to provide immediate opportunities for new and expanded commercial UAS operations
  • to address the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration
  • to provide actionable data and information to DOT and FAA that will be used for future UAS policymaking and rulemaking


  • Memorandum of Agreement: Successful applicants will enter into an MOA with the FAA, which will govern the relationship between the agency and the participant as well as outline expectations specific to each participant's proposal. A sample MOA is available on the FAA pilot program web page linked above.
  • Waivers and Airspace Authorizations: For advanced operations not permitted under the small UAS commercial regulations (Part 107), FAA will grant waivers and airspace authorizations using the same criteria currently applied to other waiver requestors. FAA indicated during the stakeholder briefing that waiver requests under the pilot program will receive priority over other entity requests.

Additional Information

During the stakeholder briefing, FAA indicated that it would hold informational webinars in the near future and would also provide a Q&A document/web page that would be updated as questions are received by the FAA, so that all potential applicants have access to the same information. Interested entities can sign up for a webinar here. FAA staff is also available via telephone (844-FLY-MY-UA) for questions from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on business days. 


1 All deadlines listed in this alert are calculated under the assumption that the Federal Register notice will be published as scheduled, on Nov. 8, 2017.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.