Drones Tested in Communications-Denied, Post-Disaster Environment

American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI), a provider of long-range drones for civilian applications, has successfully tested drone-based wireless communications and real-time mapping for improved hurricane response.

During a hurricane-response exercise, the company flew its RS-20 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to test the delivery of critical services to first responders.

According to AATI, this included the first-ever trial aimed at providing airborne wireless connectivity for first responders in a post-disaster, communications-denied environment. Using AATI’s InstiMaps system, additional tests delivered high-resolution, map-based imagery of coastlines and infrastructure to the Web in real time.

The flight tests were conducted Oct. 5-7 in Cape May County, N.J., under a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which covers more than 100 square miles with a ceiling of 7,500 feet. It was issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

A tabletop exercise was conducted prior to the flights. It included representatives from multiple government and education institutions, including the N.J. National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard, the N.J. State Police, the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management, the FAA Technical Center, the N.J. Department of Transportation, NJIT and Rutgers.

This is the eighth COA under which AATI has conducted drone flights in the U.S. At Cape May Airport, as it has conducted four operations, including the first UAS flight from a public airport in the state of New Jersey.

In May, AATI and Verizon Wireless tested airborne cellular network connectivity using both long-range drones and manned aircraft over hundreds of miles of pipelines and power lines in central Virginia.

Vinod Khosla, CEO of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm and investor in AATI, says, “Airborne cellular communications are a key enabler for long-range drones – helping turn the promise of this disruptive technology into a practical reality.”

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