Mississippi researchers make unmanned aviation history at state’s busiest airport
This is the first time that a non-military drone has flown in Class C controlled airspace. Tom Brooks is director of the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at MSU. He says the flight demonstrates how unmanned aircraft and passenger planes can one day operate on the same runways.
“It really moves the needle in terms of not only the symbolism of what can be done, but also a hands-on demonstration of how it can be done every day,” says Brooks.
Brooks says the drone can be fitted with cameras, radar and other imaging technology, and can be used to monitor damage in an emergency. Matthew Hering is director of operations at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He says the agency mainly uses smaller drones, but early tests with these large unmanned planes captured more data in a single flight.
Hering says: “Last year we took the opportunity to have a fixed-wing aircraft do aerial shots for us, and with the new technology that’s there to put the graphics together, that’s simply phenomenal. look at the damage to structures caused by 3D technology, it really is a game changer. “
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is also interested in how drones may someday help deliver medication during extreme weather conditions, executive director Jonathan Wilson said.
“There are situations where you just aren’t going to jeopardize a flight crew,” Wilson says. “Obviously with that, there’s less risk with it. So we have more flexibility in those marginal weather situations, and times when we might need that helicopter to move a patient.”
The Mississippi State Raspet Lab also partners with the Federal Aviation Administration and the US Department of Homeland Security.