Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Uber will soon start flying drones for a range of tasks including food and package delivery, digital mapping and conducting surveillance as part of 10 pilot programmes approved Wednesday by the US government.
The drone-testing projects have been given waivers for regulations that currently ban their use in the US and will be used to help the Federal Aviation Authority draw up suitable laws to govern the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for myriad tasks.
“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” said US transportation secretary Elaine Chao.
Apple will be using drones to capture images of North Carolina with the state’s Department of Transportation. Uber is working on air-taxi technology and will deliver food by drone in San Diego, California, because “we need flying burgers” said the company’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.
Others including startup Flirtey, which successfully made the first drone delivery in the US in 2015 test, will be using UAVs to deliver medical supplies to heart attack victims in Nevada, track mosquitoes in Florida and develop other new uses.
FedEx will use drones to inspect aircraft at its Tennessee hub and for some package deliveries between the airport and other Memphis locations. Virginia Tech said that it would explore emergency management, package delivery and infrastructure inspection by drone, partnering with Alphabet’s Project Wing, AT&T, Intel, Airbus and Dominion Energy.
Notable absentees from the approved list of 10 pilots were Amazon, which applied for a project to deliver goods within New York City, and the world’s largest non-military drone manufacturer, DJI.