[Avionics Magazine 06-29-2016] A team of experts from the medical, humanitarian, drone manufacturing, and operational intelligence fields came together last week to facilitate the first ever ship-to-shore aerial delivery in the United States, using an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Representatives from the United Nations, American Red Cross, Flirtey and others participated in the event in Cape May, New Jersey, which demonstrated the ability of UAS to perform critical aerial delivery missions during disaster situations.
The Operational Intelligence UAV surveillance display provided by Simulyze's Operational Intelligence platform. Photo: Simulyze.
Independent UAS delivery service Flirtey and Dr. Timothy Amukele, a Johns Hopkins Hospital pathologist and leading research expert in unmanned air transport of human diagnostic samples, conducted the first ship-to-shore drone flight in the U.S. The purpose of the joint mission was to demonstrate how unmanned aircraft can provide lifesaving aid to victims of a disaster, such as a hurricane or system-wide failure of electrical or communications infrastructure.
During the event, the UAVs, hexacopters manufactured by Colorado-based UAV delivery company Flirtey, delivered medical supplies from an onshore medical relief camp and a test facility stationed on a ship in the Delaware Bay. Disaster readiness organization Field Innovation Team coordinated the entire event, bringing together logistical support from Ryan Media Lab, New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the County of Cape May, Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, Atlantic Cape Community College, and five United Nations (UN) agencies.
Simulyze, a provider of Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) data analysis, correlation, integration and visualization solutions provided transmission and visualization of situational awareness data from the UAVs used during the demonstration. Simulyze CEO, Kevin Gallagher told Avionics Magazine that the operation also provided a unique assessment of how commercial and civil UAV applications and operations can use surveillance information about the local airspace to insure their operation does not impact those on the ground underneath the operation or fixed or rotary wing aircraft operating in the same airspace.
"Our role was to provide that operational intelligence platform to be able to put together all the information and data about the airspace and environment around the flight. We were able to provide the ground operator with surveillance that showed where the aircraft in the area were, as well as the element of ship traffic in the area,” Gallagher said.
The FAA's New Jersey-based William J. Hughes Technical Center also participated in the demonstration by providing an FAA aircraft feed of flights in the area, Gallagher said.
Additionally, Simulyze was also able to provide the type of aircraft performance data to the ground station operators that many major airlines, business and general aviation operators use to track the health and performance of aircraft systems, engines and other components for predictive maintenance. This is an extension of the company's Operational Intelligence platform that Gallagher believes will start to grow in popularity as commercial and civil UAS operators become increasingly complex and start to inevitably move into Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) operations.
"We did some enhanced processing of the vehicle telemetry data, we always process that telemetry data, put that into the context of the overall environment knowing where everything is, but we did some more enhanced processing and provided a dashboard display that augmented the ground station information. There was interest among the operators in knowing the performance of the hexacopters' different rotors and monitoring the altitude over time. We presented a nice display they were using as an augmentation to their ground station display, that was a new use of OI for us," said Gallagher.
Simulyze also provided an artificial horizon for the ground operators similar to what a pilot would view on a modern commercial aircraft cockpit display. The operators were able to see a dashboard that showed the winds aloft, battery power and heading of the vehicle.
"The UAV being used for the ship to shore demonstration has an autopilot onboard that talks to their ground station software. Our OI software was also able to process all the telemetry data from the UAV, and we were connected as though we were a second ground station that can be accessed by support personnel that were not directly involved in the operation," said Gallagher.
The ship-to-shore demonstration was coincidentally carried out the day after the FAA released its new Part 107 regulations for commercial UAV operations.