Memphis-Shelby County UAS Integration Pilot Program
Last October, President Donald Trump directed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to launch an initiative to safely test and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments in ten jurisdictions. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program will be used to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace and to realize the benefits of unmanned technology in our economy.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program
On Wednesday, May 9th, 2018, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) was selected by Secretary Chao to participate in the Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) as the lead agency. The goal of the UAS IPP is to conduct advanced drone operations in selected airspaces to generate data and knowledge for future UAS policymaking. The UAS IPP will be conducted over the next three years.
The proposal put forth by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority is in partnership with the City of Memphis, Agricenter International, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, FedEx, GE subsidiaries AirXOS and Avitas, Intel, Flirtey, 901Drones, Express Drone Parts, and ForeverReady Productions. This diverse team will conduct advanced drone operations, including beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), operations over people (OOP), and operations at night, in a total of five airspaces, including urban and agricultural areas and secure areas closed to the public.
Additionally, the Airport Authority, City of Memphis and Shelby County Government plan to educate the local community about the operations that would take place in the Memphis metropolitan area under UAS IPP through three public meetings.
Memphis-Shelby County UAS Airspace/Use Cases
The MSCAA has selected five airspaces in Memphis/Shelby County to conduct drone operations.
Airspace 1: The airport will operate UAS for perimeter security and to detect foreign object debris on runways/taxiways. UAS will be operated beyond BVLOS and a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) will alert pilots of UAS in the area.
Airspaces 2 and 3: FedEx will operate UAS to inspect aircrafts, asset tracking, facility security and emergency response. FedEx will also utilize UAS to deliver small aircraft parts on a defined path in the north ramp area. UAS will not operate over any person other than authorized personnel during walk-around and inspections and BVLOS for the other use cases.
Airspace 4: The airspace will cover Shelby Farms, Agricenter International, as well as the Wolf and Mississippi Rivers. Operations will include precision agriculture, environmental protection, infrastructure protection and package delivery for medical needs within Shelby Farms. UAS will operate at night and BVLOS.
Airspace 5: The City of Memphis will operate UAS within airspace that includes the Liberty Bowl. The use cases will include infrastructure inspection, public safety, and medical deliveries. Operations will include BVLOS, night and OOP. Additionally, Memphis’ communication infrastructure is currently based on 4G, with the Smart City initiative seeking 5G implementation. Testing will determine variation in coverage for UAS between 4g and 5G with visual line of sight before flying BVLOS.