It’s been an uncharacteristically intricate week for Eric Jackson, a public information officer at the Lee County Mosquito In check District in southwestern Florida.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Wednesday afternoon identified Lee County’s mosquito control outfit one of only 10 state, provincial and tribal government entities to be selected for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Patterns Integration Pilot Program.
That means Lee County’s mosquito direct operations will be able to incorporate drone technology under numberless relaxed standards than they would otherwise be required to adhere to inferior to current law.
It also means an unlikely spotlight has been shined on the county’s nudnik control efforts.
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“I’m counting after today it’ll quiet down. We’re getting a lot of media requests, but it’s also I’m retrieve inundated with drone operators that want jobs,” Jackson give the word delivers. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, this really made it around the country.'”
The FAA in a statement this week indicated it had received 149 formal proposals from across the U.S. The pilot program is wanted to run over the next two and a half years, and feedback from those exclusive will likely help the federal government decide whether to untie restrictions on commercial and governmental drone use in the future.
Among the other finalists, the Choctaw Land of Oklahoma has been granted broader drone approval to monitor crops and livestock herds. Alaskan line inspection efforts are likely to see greater unmanned aircraft use in the months and years to the fore. But Lee County was the only finalist recognized that intends to use broader drone authorization for pest control.
“We’ve been doing this for 60 years with aircraft dole out with mosquito issues, so I’m thinking that might have take advantage ofed a part (in our selection),” Jackson says, describing the county’s mosquito residents as a potential public health problem. “Our district relies heavily on aerial ventures.”
Lee County’s mosquito control efforts – which span an area that Jackson voices includes “a lot of mangrove habitat” – already involve helicopters and bantam aircraft that monitor and in some cases treat areas with markedly high pest activity.
Jackson says his department has also partnered with the Lee County Hyacinth Dominance District in the past, making limited use of unmanned drones to “take incarnations of aquatic bodies to see where there’s a lot of vegetation.”
“Because where you from vegetation crowding out water, sometimes mosquitoes can grow in those,” he says.
But with its new acceptance from the FAA, the department hopes to make use of a much larger 1,500-pound drone in its watch and pest treatment operations. Its status in the program will allow drone administrators to fly at night, beyond a visible line of sight and directly over individual, potentially at lower altitudes. All three of those stipulations would not be permitted subservient to current law.
“We potentially could be using it more for surveillance and in more secluded areas for treatment missions,” Jackson says. “We’re trying to be as innovative as we can and as competent as we can. And if this can be used safely, we’re open to anything.”
But details of how and when an unmanned drone weighing numerous than an adult grizzly bear will be flying over Lee County are mollify up in the air. Jackson notes the control district’s location in the Sunshine State referred ti it to particularly stringent public records laws. He says mosquito suppress officials will hold a special commissioners meeting later this month to talk over how and when they will take their next steps with the program.
But he discloses he and his colleagues are honored and excited to have been selected for such a competitive program – parallel with if that means his phone continues to ring off the hook for the time being.
“In reality, the whole point of this program is to be able to expand beyond the in the air regulations to see how this can be used,” he says. “We have pilots in the air, and as the airspace becomes uncountable crowded and people start flying above 400 feet and out of limit of sight, [we asked ourselves] how can we make sure we have a seat at the tabulation to where we can help draft these regulations to keep our pilots riskless.”