Skyports, an established drone services provider, has partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Aeronautics Division to demonstrate how its drone services could link communities across the Cape Cod region in Massachusetts.
MassDOT is investigating the uses of drones as a solution to connecting its remote communities to everyday services such as healthcare and logistics, and in particular is looking to develop a capability to provide emergency medical delivery after storms or other natural disasters. The Cape Cod region contains numerous hard to reach communities including: islands, peninsulas, and offshore energy projects where drones can provide an effective method of keeping these areas connected.
Skyports presents an ideal solution to the problem, as the operator’s drones are capable of flying safely in harsh weather conditions and are able to carry varied cargo payloads up to 100 lbs.
Skyports has been granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights during a week-long feasibility project. The project will guide MassDOT as it explores broader BVLOS drone operations in Massachusetts, to perform services such as rail network and road inspections.
MassDOT already uses drones as part of its program to support the transportation infrastructure across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MassDOT’s Drone Program performs daily flights to support the MassDOT Highway, Rail and Transit, and Aeronautics Divisions, along with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) that operates the subway and commuter rail lines. These flights inspect rail track, document the health of wetlands near construction sites, and map highway and airport projects. As part of these efforts, MassDOT is also looking to expand its ability to perform complex drone operations such as BVLOS flight over rail and emergency delivery to remote communities. MassDOT turned to Skyports to help define the approach to delivery operations, and to demonstrate delivery flights across Vineyard Sound, between Woods Hole on Cape Cod and the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Why It’s Important: Expansion of BVLOS drone operations in the United States bolsters the framework of proven operations of advanced aerial mobility systems, which will allow for increases in future frequencies and a smoother path toward scaling the needs of an on demand aerial mobility network of the future. While the current implementation involves sUAS, or small drones, the infrastructure and beyond visual line of site operation methods are virtually identical to what would be required for aerial mobility passenger transport.