The news was announced by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and drone logistics company Volansi. According to the release, two experimental deliveries have been made to date. This is particularly important as it has been very difficult to organise supplies to the residents of the North Carolina island after a weather emergency.
According to Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette, the pilot project is a major step forward, as drone deliveries will make it easier to get life-saving supplies and equipment to the island, which is normally only accessible by plane or boat. During the test flights, the drone took off from the ferry dock in Hatteras Village and landed at the South Dock at the north end of Ocracoke Island. It made the eight-mile round trip in an average of 18 minutes. The flying vehicle was launched with a smaller load to simulate an emergency delivery operation. On its first trip, it carried a survival kit, emergency blankets and a chocolate muffin. The second time, he set off with several bottles of water.
Ben Spain, the ministry’s unmanned aerial systems programme manager, said they were confident that in the longer term it would be possible to deliver larger payloads and longer flight times – including even delivering supplies from the mainland. During the next test flight, the drone will fly from Hatteras to the village of Ocracoke. However, a date for this is not yet known. The flights were carried out under the supervision of Volansi, which provided the drone. The Volansi C-10 Gemini is capable of vertical take-off and landing, fixed-wing horizontal flight and a payload of up to five pounds (roughly 2.3 kilograms). The C-10 can also be equipped with a camera to monitor the wake in the ferry ducts.
The current experiment was made possible by the Federal Aviation Administration’s BEYOND program for beyond-visual-range drone flights. This initiative allows individual state and local agencies to conduct a variety of drone operations to test technological capabilities.