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US taps Apple, Microsoft, Intel for drone tests

Tech giants Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. are among the companies tapped for projects in a U.S. government drone-testing program, Reuters reported May 9.

The country's Transportation Department has selected 10 projects among 149 proposals for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, which was launched in October 2017. It aims to partner state, local and tribal governments with private companies to gather data on drone tests over the next 2.5 years.

Data collected will help the department determine how to regulate and safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

Proponents of the projects will now have to sign agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the details of their drone pilots, including operational concepts and data-sharing requirements.

Among the projects, Apple will take images of North Carolina via drone, while a 1,500-pound unmanned aircraft will look for mosquitoes in Florida. Drone delivery startup Flirtey Holdings Inc. and freight delivery company FedEx Corp., meanwhile, will deliver medical equipment on drones to heart attack patients in Nevada.

Other companies tapped for the drone testing were aircraft maker Airbus SE and ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc., according to Reuters.

Among those rejected were a proposal that would have seen Amazon.com Inc. deliver goods by drone to New York City shoppers and about a dozen projects involving Chinese nonmilitary drone maker Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd., a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Earlier in March, Amazon and Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc. led other companies in supporting the commercial drone industry's efforts to launch a privately funded and operated air-traffic control network for drones.