The First Hurricane Relief Drone Was Ready to Fly—Then Dorian Hit

Wired | 9/17/2019 | Staff
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“I think Hurricane Dorian was a wake-up call,” says Basil Yap, a UAS program manager at the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which is testing drones as part of a Federal Aviation Administration project.

In the US, where the FAA has registered more than 1 million drones, regulations limit drone use to daytime only and within the “visual line of sight” of the pilot. They cannot be flown over people. Yet disaster relief provides a strong rationale for providing exceptions to those restrictions. For example, although Hurricane Dorian caused minimal damage in North Carolina, Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks was submerged by floodwaters. It has no bridges and is accessible only by boat or plane; in the aftermath of a storm, anyone still on the island can quickly become stranded.

North - Carolina - Transportation - Department - Deployment

The North Carolina transportation department made its first major deployment of drones in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in 2018, flying more than 260 drone missions to direct emergency responders and divert traffic away from damaged roads and bridges. “We are very interested in how we can use drones for medical package delivery during a natural disaster,” says Yap. “I hope by next year we’re ready.”

The transportation agency had already partnered with a drone company, Matternet, along with UPS to transport lab samples across a hospital complex in Raleigh. The department also has arranged for Israeli-based Flytrex to deliver food via drone to a sports and recreation area in Holly Springs, a Raleigh suburb.

Point - Quicker - Meals - Soccer - Afternoons

The point isn’t just to provide quicker meals on soccer afternoons. These projects help work out potential kinks in drone transport while the public becomes accustomed to seeing unmanned objects delivering packages. (They might not be alone in the sky for long: Amazon promises its drone package delivery service is also imminent.) “We don’t want to introduce something...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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