How a Va. Company is Guiding Drones Out to Sea and Back

This post originally appeared on http://dcinno.streetwise.co/2016/06/17/va-drone-tracking-software-for-red-cross-ship-at-sea-test/.

[Editor’s Note: The ship delivery test will be a combination of drone technology by Flirtey and analytics by Simulyze.]

“Drone ho” may soon be the new version of calling out the sight of land for ships out at sea. That’s part of the vision that Reston, Va.-based Simulyze will test out next week off the coast of New Jersey when a drone will fly medical supplies to a ship a half mile out at sea and return with a new cargo.

“We’re moving the industry forward,” Simulyze CEO Kevin Gallagher told DC Inno in an interview. “What we think is that [the test] will be a template for integrating data [from drones] into existing data flow.”

Simulyze

Simulyze built the programs that create real-time 3D maps of what a drone is encountering, offering a wealth of information on everything from motor speeds and energy use to a complete picture of what’s around the drone and how it can best reach its destination. There’s considerable work going into integrating drone data into the FAA’s overall feed to make it possible for drones to operate in U.S. airspace as well as manned aircraft.

“The national airspace infrastructure is pretty well set. Being able to plug new things into it is a big deal,” Gallagher said. “We can get UAS (unmanned aerial system) data flowing into the existing system the same as other pilots and that can change everything.”

The test between ship and shore will be the first in the U.S. and a test of both the technology of drone-maker Flirtey and the analytics of Simulyze. Flirtey is also the company behind the recent successful land delivery testing. The ocean test isn’t about commercial delivery though. Rather, it’s a test for potential humanitarian aid and scientific research. The UN and Red Cross are both part of the test, with Johns Hopkins Hospital pathologist Dr. Timothy Amukele there as an expert on how drones can be used for transporting medical samples. Tying all of the relevant information before, during and after the flight is a daunting task, but Gallagher said that’s why Simulyze was created.

“We’ve been building integrated capabilities for a decade and a half. It might seem straightforward but it really isn’t,” Gallagher said. “We have to make sure the system isn’t just reliable but robust. It has to deal with different conditions all over the world.”

If all goes well, there will be more tests and exercises, with the goal of being ready for the next natural disaster or other humanitarian crisis that needs rapid exchange of medical or other supplies between somewhere on land and a ship too small for a helicopter or plane.

“We just want to keep moving the community forward,” Gallagher said. “When the system is working robustly and reliably, more and more folks can fly.”

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