Savannah / Hilton Head International (SAV) and technology firm Woolpert are working together to integrate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into airfield operations. Savannah is the first commercial service airport to formally integrate drone technologies into its regular programmes for inspection, maintenance, monitoring and facility management, including its FAA-mandated protocols. The devices are expected to become a force multiplier for wildlife and security operations.
The first phase of the project demonstrated that drones could be used safely and efficiently for routine operational needs. For example, the drone has already enabled the operations team to identify a downed tree that had broken through the perimeter fence on the swampy north end of the airport in a location extremely difficult to access on foot or by watercraft. This stage also included aeronautical surveys and base mapping, and went live in December. The next phase will integrate the UAS flight operations and associated data and imagery into the airport’s capabilities, and in collaboration with key stakeholders and FAA approval, will expand UAS flight operations into the airport operating area (AOA) and local air traffic control. This will validate the benefits of using drones to support missions that enhance the productivity and safety staff and operators. It also involves the airport acquiring a drone, assisting staff to become licensed pilots, and refining the systems, sensors, processes and data management techniques appropriate to the airport needs.
“Instead of driving up and down a runway to identify pavement or marking issues, the airport will be able to use UAS to remotely collect data and create work orders with accurate coordinates and valuable imagery into Cityworks,” said Thomas Mackie,Woolpert Vice President and Geospatial Aviation Practice Leader. “The additional capability with UAS will not eliminate the human-in-the-loop for airfield operations, but will certainly provide an opportunity to minimize frequency and duration of time spent in safety critical areas and create valuable geodata as part of the airport’s system of records. The end game is for SAV to have this safe, efficient tool—with well-scripted processes—in its toolbox for use as needed.”
Picture: Savannah / Hilton Head International and Woolpert are collaborating to introduce drones at the airport. (Woolpert)