Commercial delivery drone
A commercial delivery drone in flight. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

San Diego is one of 10 state and local governments selected to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to integrate autonomous drones into the local airspace.

San Diego’s program will include projects like flying medical specimens to UC San Diego for expedited results, testing food delivery from restaurants to consumers with Uber, and enhancing public safety by deploying drones in advance of first responders.

“This designation brings together some of our brightest minds in local government and private industry to develop cutting-edge technologies that are going to take robotic and aerial innovations to the next level,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer at a press conference on Thursday.

This list of local governments was announced Wednesday by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said data gathered from their pilot projects would “form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace.”

The other participants chosen were in Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

The FAA said the “Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program” will tackle the most significant challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace while reducing risks to public safety and security.

Joining San Diego in the project here are more than 20 local companies and organizations, including Qualcomm, the City of Chula Vista, Uber, the Port of San Diego and UC San Diego Health.

“This announcement proves San Diego companies, organizations, academics, government and nonprofits are exceptionally well-positioned to advance the adoption into the national airspace,” said Lauree Sahba, chief operating officer for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. “Not only does this program elevate San Diego as a research and development hub, but it also brings enormous potential to our economically diverse region.”

The announcement follows a similar designation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which selected the San Diego region as one of 10 autonomous vehicle testing sites in the nation in 2017.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.