Memphis one of 10 cities selected to participate in nation-wide drone study

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - You could soon see more drones flying in the Mid-South.

Memphis is one of the few cities in the country selected to explore how drones can be safely used in the community.

President Donald Trump announced the initiative to safely test and advance operations for drones last fall.

Nearly 150 applications were submitted, and Memphis is now one of 10 cities taking part in this two-year nationwide study.

"This is such an exciting day for aviation, for safety, for innovation," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

Chao announced the winners Wednesday afternoon in the nation's capitol.

The 10 participants were chosen from coast-to-coast to explore how drones can be safely and effectively used.

At Memphis International Airport, drones will enhance safety and security by inspecting the fence line for intruders. They will also fly over runways and taxiways to make sure the areas are clear.

The study will tackle the most significant challenges in integrating drones into the national airspace while reducing risks to public safety and security.

"Technology is developing so rapidly that our country has reached a tipping point," Chao said.

Scott Brockman, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority President and CEO, said his team wasted no time preparing a proposal to compete among the dozens interested.

"It would be my goal through this study to find ways to develop businesses around the airport to provide jobs, to provide tremendous economic value to our community," Brockman said.

The pilot program will evaluate a variety of hot-button issues, including flying drones over people and out of a pilot's line of sight, as well as night flights and package delivery.

"It is the future and we need to grab hold of it," Brockman said.

Shipping giant FedEx partnered with the airport authority for the pilot program.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems will deliver small aircraft parts, inspect aircrafts, and boost security.

FedEx released the following statement on the program.

"FedEx continues to be a leader in transportation technology that improves safety and efficiency for our team members, operations and customers. We are supportive of testing and research in the FAA Unmanned Aircraft System pilot program. We are pleased that the FAA has selected Memphis as a test site for the program."

Shelby County also has plans to use drones during the two-year pilot study. Drones will be used to fly along the riverfront and other waterways to monitor water quality

Drones will fly high over Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium by City of Memphis for inspection, public safety, and even medical deliveries.

"It is the future and we need to grab hold of it and make sure we garter the economic value," Brockman said.

Over the next two and a half years, data will be collected from night flights, flight over people, beyond the pilot's line of sight, and package delivery. This data to shape new drone rules and policy.

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