Pentagon Performance Provides Range Safety for Historic Drone Flights in Cape May

As scores of onlookers at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal gazed across the Delaware Bay on Wednesday, they bore witness to the first drone ship-to-shore package delivery in Unites States history. 

Battling stiff winds, the unmanned aircraft, the Nevada based company Flirtey, departed from the coast carrying a package of medical samples toward a barge floating just past the opening of the Cape May Canal.  The drone hovered over the craft, and used a clever winch system to lower the package onto the barge before landing.

The boat crew then retrieved the package, loaded it with medical supplies, and sent the drone back to shore where it completed a similar delivery.   

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All the while, another drone operated by New Jersey-based Fovea Aero flew in formation with the delivery drone, filming the entire mission.  This formation flight of two unmanned aircraft marked yet another first for United States civil drone operations.

Pentagon Performance Inc. (PPI), flight operations contractor for New Jersey UAS Test Site, oversaw the operation’s range safety and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

“With an operation of this complexity, completing a task unprecedented in the realm of UAS, safety was of the utmost concern,” said PPI CEO Anthony La Sure.  “I’m extremely proud not only that our crew was able to maintain safe and sterile operations, but also that we were the first to secure the proper clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to carry out the operation in complete compliance with federal regulations.”

The flights took place as part of the United Nations’ Drones in Disaster “Do Tank” event. The flights demonstrated unmanned aircraft systems’ (UAS) capabilities to assist in humanitarian disaster relief efforts to aid affected coastal areas that would otherwise be cut-off from aid. 

“UAS has the potential to make this world a much safer place,” said La Sure.  “I’m glad that thanks to our close relationship with the FAA and Cape May County we were able to demonstrate that to the public in some of the busiest airspace in the nation.  Full UAS integration into everyday aviation operations is our goal, and I believe we’ve taken another big step toward that goal here today.”

On Tuesday the FAA made headway of its own, releasing new regulations for the operation of UAS under 55 pounds.  These new rules outline refined processes and requirements for those desiring to operate small drones for commercial purposes.  Once they come into effect, others will have the opportunity to follow in the historic footsteps left in the sands of Cape May on Wednesday.

Source: Pentagon Performance, Inc.
Date: Jun 27, 2016