North Carolina DOT Works Toward UAS for Disaster Relief

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is exploring how to best implement unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into future disaster-relief efforts. The department’s division of aviation recently collaborated with nearly 50 state and local government agencies and industry researchers for a three-day workshop, which included interactive demonstrations of drone operations in simulated scenarios.

“Our goal is to ensure that drones flying within North Carolina are flown safely and responsibly,” says Bobby Walston, director of the aviation division. “A better understanding of drone capabilities and evolving regulations will give emergency-management professionals tools to safely use this technology during disasters and routine operations.”

Without proper coordination, explains the NCDOT, drone operators can unintentionally interfere with emergency-management operations. A goal of the exercise was to organize communications with the public in order to ensure hobbyist drones do not hinder disaster-relief efforts.

The workshop was organized by the NCDOT division of aviation and North Carolina State University’s Next Generation Air Transportation Consortium, which is within the school’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

North Carolina has more than 15,000 registered drones, which is almost double the number of registered manned aircraft, according to the department.

A report on best practices for natural-disaster response will be available in March.

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