VOL. 133 | NO. 93 | Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Memphis To Be One of 10 Drone Test Sites
By Bill Dries
The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority is leading a Memphis group that is part of a national pilot program to integrate drones into air traffic.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration announced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program Wednesday, May 9, in Washington, D.C., with airport authority president and CEO Scott Brockman and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis both in attendance.
The Memphis application was one of 150 submitted as the DOT and FAA work on new rules for more complex low-altitude drone operations.
The airport authority is working with city government, Memphis-based FedEx Corp., Agricenter International, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics, AirXOS and Avitas as well as Intel, Flirtey, 901Drones, Express Drone Parts and ForeverReady Productions in a partnership that will involve advanced drone operations in several ways.
Those operations include:
• Using drones for perimeter security at Memphis International Airport and to identify foreign objects on runways and taxiways.
• Using drones to inspect aircraft at FedEx facilities, including asset tracking, facility security and emergency response. The drone use at FedEx will also include delivering small aircraft parts in the north ramp area.
• Precision agriculture applications at Agricenter in airspace that will also cover Shelby Farms Park and the Wolf and Mississippi rivers. Drone operations in this scenario will be at night and also include environmental protection, infrastructure protection and package delivery for medical needs within Shelby Farms.
• City operations in the airspace around Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, including for public safety, medical deliveries and infrastructure inspection. The city uses also will include testing for any variations in coverage for drones with the use of 5G coverage compared to the current 4G coverage.
The program is limited to using drones that weigh 55 pounds or less.
Cohen said Memphis’ selection among the 10 cities with drone projects “will increase its stature as a center for this cutting-edge technology and will advance the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.”
“The economic impact of this announcement cannot be overstated and I congratulate the airport authority and its partners for this major achievement,” Cohen said.
Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the airport authority, called it a “tremendous opportunity.”
“We formed a very strong team of partners in our bid to be considered as a program participant and are grateful to have been selected,” said Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the airport authority.
The airport authority and city and county government plan to hold three public meetings to educate the community on how the drones will be used locally. Dates of those meetings will be released later, according to the airport authority.