Another in-flight first: drone delivery to Ocracoke

Delivery to Ocracoke by drone flight. [NCDOT photo]

The charm of Ocracoke Island comes from its isolation, but that isolation presents challenges. Especially when storms hit, it can be difficult to get vital supplies on the island. It may soon become a little easier thanks to the successful drone test flights carried out yesterday.

NCDOT’s Aviation Division, in partnership with NCDOT’s Ferry Division and U.S. drone logistics company Volansi, successfully completed two test flights of a delivery drone from Hatteras to the island of ‘Ocracoke.

“This is a great first step towards better connecting Ocracoke Island to potentially life-saving supplies and equipment,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said. “Today, Ocracoke Island is only accessible by plane or boat. What we are working on here is an entirely new third method to meet the needs of the people of Ocracoke.

For Thursday’s test flights, a drone took off from the Hatteras Village ferry dock and landed at the south dock at the north end of Ocracoke Island. The eight-mile round-trip flights averaged just 18 minutes of flight time. To simulate a true emergency delivery operation after the storm, both flights were carrying small payloads. The former delivered a small survival kit, space blankets, and a chocolate muffin to Ocracoke, while the latter delivered bottled water.

“It was only a small test, but we hope to continue expanding it to larger payloads and longer flights,” said Ben Spain, NCDOT’s unmanned aerial systems program manager. “In the long term, we may see deliveries coming to Ocracoke from the mainland. “

The flights were carried out under the supervision of NCDOT by a team from Volansi, who also supplied the aircraft. The Volansi C-10 Gemini is capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and horizontal fixed-wing flight, and can carry a payload of up to five pounds.

NCDOT’s Ferry Division was an integral part of the operation and witnessed the benefits drones are able to provide to people like those who live on a barrier island. That same aircraft could be fitted with a camera to monitor shallow water in ferry channels and could reduce pressure on ferries to get important items to the island quickly.

The operation was made possible by a Over-Line-of-Sight Flight (BVLOS) waiver granted under the Federal Aviation Administration’s BEYOND program, which allows certain state and local agencies to conduct flight operations. drones that test the future capabilities of the technology. The next test will be to fly a drone from Hatteras to the village of Ocracoke. The date of this trial has not yet been determined.

About Theresa Burton

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