‘Drone Express’ takes to the skies above Springfield

A drone operated by a New Jersey company called TELEGRID, a developer and producer of communications and networking equipment. The business launched its Drone Express unmanned air vehicle (UAV) last month to test the aircraft’s ability to potentially deliver packages beyond visual line of sight, or BVLOS. CONTRIBUTED

Drone tested for package delivery potential

Can retail orders be delivered via drone? A recent test in Springfield was a step toward answering that question for a New Jersey communications company that is now looking to establish a presence in Ohio.

The company, TELEGRID Technologies Inc., tested a drone in the area recently to see how well a drone-package-delivery service can be operated beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight.

The test was successful enough that TELEGRID principals are examining opening a division in Ohio, Beth Flippo, the company’s principal engineer, said in an interview Tuesday.

“We are hiring people who are working from their homes,” she said.

Springfield is one of the few places nationally where such tests — beyond visual line of sight, sometimes called BVLOS — can take place. Although this time, Flippo said the company’s drone was not actually tested that way.

The company is based just outside New York City, where the airspace is very restricted, and such tests are difficult.

“The test went great. It’s amazing what they have out there in Ohio,” Flippo said.

The company wanted to see what it was like flying drones with Skyvision, which is a Springfield-anchored air traffic control system for drones that allows unmanned aircraft systems to detect and avoid other aircraft while in flight.

“It brought us closer in showing us there are certain locations that embrace that concept,” Flippo said.

“The whole FlyOhio, the Ohio Department of Transportation, is really a statewide initiative,” she added. "They really to do everything, move heaven and earth, to get drones in the commercial space.

“You kind of have aerospace in your blood,” Flippo added.

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The company is talking with retailers to help them launch UAV delivery services — which the company calls “Drone Express” — and came to Springfield to use the region’s airspace to test its the concept, the Dayton Development Coalition said in a recent news release.

The testing happened at the Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport, where the FAA has allowed beyond visual line of sight testing.

“We knew we had to come to Springfield to test our Drone Express to better understand its BVLOS capabilities,” Flippo said in a coalition release. “Our drones already perform global obstacle avoidance and determine a safe flight path that avoids obstacles in the air and dangerous situations on the ground, and we wanted to test how that would function in a BVLOS environment.”

Today, the FAA doesn’t allow package delivery from autonomous drones.

“Our mission is to use autonomous drones to improve local delivery while reducing the impact on the environment,” Flippo said. “We envision a service that provides low-cost, same-day delivery for retailers nationwide using drones that are safe, secure and use eco-friendly renewable energy.”

Drone Express UAVs is one aspect of TELEGRID’s 36 years of designing and manufacturing secure hardware and embedded software solutions for the U.S. military, the coalition said.

Drone Express UAVs receive a constant feed of data for situational awareness updated in real-time using secure data feeds. In other words, the drone “knows” where it is and what to avoid.

Drone Express is a member of the Federal Aviation Administration UAS Integration Pilot Program.

According to the company, the Drone Express service allows retailers to quickly and safely deliver small items under 13 pounds to local customers and could work well for grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and other retailers with frequent, small orders.

For a video of the Drone Express TM system, visit: https://droneexpress.ai/intelligent-uav-technology/.

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