MEMPHIS, TN - You will soon spot more drones flying around Memphis.
The Bluff City is 1 of 10 cities selected to participate in the United States Department of Transportation's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.
The initiative is to explore how to safely explore drone operations. Originally, 149 proposals were submitted.
Participating areas will gather drone data from night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot's line of sight, package delivery, and detect-and-avoid technologies. The information will help US DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) create new rules, address security issues, and improve communications.
According to the US DOT, areas that could experience opportunities are commerce, photography, public safety, and infrastructure inspections.
For Scott and Lauren Ready, using drones allows them to expand services with their company Forever Ready Productions.
"We do videography for non-profits. So there are a lot of cool buildings and large sites and lots of things people like to see that aerial view," said Scott Ready.
As they have turned to drone video to set their work apart, like other drone users they try to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology.
"The rules have been constantly changing for the last few years," said Ready.
That is why they are grateful to be a part of the team working the new drone pilot program in Memphis.
The Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority submitted the program proposal with partners: City of Memphis, Agricenter International, FedEx, University of Memphis, Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, GE subsidiaries AirXOS and Avitas, Intel, Flirtey, 901Drones, Express Drone Parts, and Forever Ready Productions.
"They really wanted us to highlight on activities that would lead the industry forward with drones," said Scott Brockman, Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority President and CEO.
Drone operations will be done in 5 airspaces across Memphis. Testing will cover everything from farming and environmental protection at Shelby Farms to perimeter security and detecting foreign objects at the airport runways. The City of Memphis will use drones for infrastructure inspection, public safety and medical deliveries.
"We have a very diverse set of testing that we're going to do. The development of our program has got everything from part delivery and plane inspections with FedEx," said Brockman.
"This is a great thing for Memphis. It really pushes us to the front of this national conversation of where are drones going to fit in our everyday life as they increase and are used more," said Scott Ready.
The potential for economic development is also a big piece to this initiative and was a big driving factor as to why the airport authority applied for it.
According to the US DOT, they expect integrating UAS in the nation's airspace could generate an economic benefit of $82 billion and 100,000 jobs.
As the program takes off, there will be a lot of "housekeeping" and safeguards that need to happen before any actual testing takes place. According to Brockman, any timeline would be dependent on the use.
The team in place will work to establish a website with information and hold community informational meetings.
Those meetings have not been scheduled yet.