Businesses will soon be able to safely test novel unmanned aerial systems — drones — under a new policy from the Trump administration.

The aerial vehicles show potential for delivering goods, inspecting crops and collecting scientific data.

The new program will work with state, local and tribal governments to create spaces for drone testing. In these “innovation zones,” companies will be able to test out activities that are currently restricted, such as flying above people, or flying without an operator in the drone’s line of sight.

“Our nation will move faster, fly higher and soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation,” President Trump said October 25 when he announced the proposal.

Successfully integrating drones into U.S. airspace will foster innovation and boost the economy. In less than 10 years, drones able to transit freely and safely could create $82 billion to the economy and up to 100,000 jobs.

Many industries can benefit from drones, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at the project’s announcement.

“Drones are proving to be especially valuable in emergency situations, including assessing damage from natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and the wildfires in California,” she said.

Man flying a drone (© AP Images)
Steve Metzman leads DroneLinx, a company that relies on unmanned aircraft. His drones can monitor the health of bridges, oil rigs and other difficult-to-inspect infrastructure. (© AP Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for overseeing 40,000 piloted flights a day, is taking on the complex challenge of bringing unmanned aircraft into busy U.S. airspace.

The FAA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will seek input from all levels of government and from private companies to write rules that will keep people safe and spark new technologies.

“This program supports the president’s commitment to foster technological innovation that will be a catalyst for ideas that have the potential to change our day-to-day lives,” Chao said.