The New Jersey Institute of Technology plans to conduct remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flight in the National Airspace over the Atlantic Ocean Jan. 27-29.The flights, which will take off from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center (TRACEN) in Cape May, N.J., will test the feasibility of safely integrating RPAs into the public airspace and to assess the research and operational capabilities of several data-collecting sensors aboard the craft that can be used to improve emergency management planning and response, according to officials.
NJIT’s mission is to enhance the region’s homeland security and emergency management capabilities. A primary goal is to develop RPA-borne weather sensors that can predict where a major storm will make landfall as many as three days before existing technology now permits.
Communications relay devices are designed to function as “flying cell towers” capable of relaying calls and data from first responders in communities in which telecommunications equipment has been knocked out. Enhanced mapping technology would give emergency responders immediate information on damage caused by major storms such as Hurricane Sandy, improving their effectiveness.
The first flights will take off from an airstrip at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center (TRACEN) in Cape May and travel up to one nautical mile out over the ocean and as high as 3,000 feet. The ground-based pilot will be in communication with air traffic controllers during the flight.
After each flight, the team will assess the RPA’s operational performance as well as its success in gathering data, which NJIT will share with the FAA and emergency management agencies.