The Federal Aviation Administration has an all-new drone testing program, dubbed BEYOND, in an effort to use private-industry testing and data to help better understand drones.
In a lot of ways, BEYOND is an extension of the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP), which was launched through a Presidential Memorandum in October 2017 with nine regional participants. Each of those nine participants then consisted of both government agencies and private companies, working in tandem to study various aspects of drones.
But that three-year program ended on Oct. 25, 2020. A day later, a new – and quite similar program — was born. Enter: BEYOND.
The BEYOND program, which officially launched on Oct. 26, continues the partnerships with eight of the original nine IPP participants. In this latest phase, the FAA is focusing on supporting companies that are operating under established rules rather than waivers. It’s also looking to collect data to develop performance-based standards, collecting and addressing community feedback and understanding the societal and community benefits, and studying how it can streamline the approval processes for UAS integration.
“The IPP propelled the American drone industry forward, allowing for unprecedented expansions in testing and operations through innovative private-public partnerships across the country,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios in a prepared statement. “Now, the BEYOND program will build upon this success, tackling the next big challenges facing drone integration.”
Oddly though, BEYOND only includes eight of the nine state, local and tribal governments that originally participated in the IPP program.
The IPP participants continuing in the BEYOND program are:
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority of Virginia
- Kansas Department of Transportation
- Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority
- North California Department of Transportation
- North Dakota Department of Transportation
- City of Reno, Nevada
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks
Missing from the new BEYOND program: The City of San Diego in California. They cited financial constraints (FAA funding is minimal).
San Diego’s program had been using drones for a few reasons including primarily border protection and package delivery of food.
But while what’s essentially IPP 2.0 dropped a major regional participant, it has some newcomers on the private industry. The BEYOND program added new private companies as participants.
Among them, Wichita, Kansas-based AgEagle, which uses drones for advanced aerial imagery, data collection and analytics technologies. AgEagle has already been on a tear in recent months, having also recently announced a a two-year exclusive manufacturing contract that enables AgEagle to produce Valqari’s patented Drone Delivery Station, essentially a mailbox that could go in your yard designed to solve the “last inch” logistic problems associated with drone deliveries.