Researchers from the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center’s Aviation Research Division and Engineering Services Division supported the Drones in Disaster Emergency Response Flight Test/Demonstration Event which took place on Wed. Jun. 22, 2016 in Cape May, NJ. This historic milestone represented the first-ever ship-to-shore commercial drone delivery of medical supplies in a simulated disaster environment. Test flights conducted as part of the event by a Reno, Nevada-based startup called Flirtey Inc., will help determine whether drones can be used to carry human medical samples to and from areas that cannot be accessed or communicated with during major storms, earthquakes or other disasters. For the inaugural flight, Johns Hopkins University pathologists loaded the delivery drone with stool, blood and urine samples, which were delivered from land to a medical testing facility on the barge. On the return trip, researchers on the barge sent water purification tablets, insulin and a First Aid kit back to shore. Researchers hope that one day, private sector drone delivery services like Flirtey and government agencies like FEMA will be able to use drones to transport life-saving supplies to places and people that desperately need them.
As part of the event, which developed as an initiative from the DRBA Innovation Forums that the FAA participates as a member of, the FAA’s research team, including several members of ATAC Corporation, actively studied methods and technologies to gather and disseminate disparate information from participating entities as part of the test. In addition, the FAA displayed prior research activities while conducting outreach efforts to further the drone safety education campaign via materials that promote flight safety such as the Know Before You Fly campaign and the B4UFlyApp. ATAC Corporation employees Jean-Christophe Geffard and Tyler Travis provided network engineering and logistical support for the event. Working collaboratively with the FAA and several industry partners, the ATAC team helped to insure a successful flight campaign. The event highlighted the partnership between the FAA, Delaware River and Bay Authority, KWWD, ATAC, and industry partners Fovea Aero Systems, Ryan Media Labs, and Simulyze, to increase awareness and highlight the possibilities of unmanned aircraft systems benefiting the public good in a safe environment.