Note to reader: The following post has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the author is a resident of North Carolina and that the Tar Heels just happen to be poised to win yet another National Championship tonight. Oh and — Go Heels.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently created a set of best practices for drone use in disaster analysis, search-and-rescue and other government responses. The final report was released after NCDOT’s Division of Aviation held a recent workshop with emergency management officials.
The workshop highlighted the Airspace Integration Table Top Exercise by North Carolina State University’s NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) Consortium. The exercise integrated drone use into disaster response preparedness planning and was designed to “identify command and control requirements, provide potential users with situational experience with UAS, and provide test cases for evaluating policy and regulations related to UAS management at the state level.”
“The exercise produced several key findings and recommendations that support the immediate, safe integration of drones into the National Airspace System,” said Aviation Division Director Bobby Walston. “This will make our state’s public agencies more effective as drone operations become more routine.”
The workshop included a live exercise using drones to simulate a response to flooding that slammed the state last year in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The exercise examined integration issues between manned and unmanned aircraft with regards to the National Airspace System. In addition, organizers used data collected from the hurricane to create a scenario in which drones surveyed flood damage and searched for survivors.
Organizers said the simulated exercise was the first time many participants had seen a drone mission in action. “This opportunity resulted in a much more tangible understanding of UAS capabilities, airspace integration complexity, and the role of UAS.”
“The need for this type of exercise has never been stronger,” said Walston. “Ensuring the use of this technology is properly coordinated is top priority in guaranteeing operations are conducted safely and effectively.”
The workshop is yet another way the NextGen Air Transportation is trying to raise interest in drones across the Tar Heel state. During the Aviation Safety Summit in 2014 director Kyle Snyder raised the challenge to attendees: “Companies are looking at North Carolina saying, ‘Let’s get here, let’s figure it out here. Because you’ve got the workforce, you’ve got the talent, you’ve got the structures in place in the state. You’ve got the people that can make this happen. You’re the first in flight. You’re the future of flight.’”