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First quarter of Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority drone pilot program features 43 successful flights

901 Drones launch pad

MEMPHIS, TENN. (January 3, 2019) – Since August, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) partners have conducted 43 successful drone flights as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP). The flights were part of the first phase of development in low risk areas to help develop operational procedures, assess potential impacts, develop airport and team member communication protocols, and determine the operational reliability of small drones that could be used on the Memphis International Airport (MEM) airfield.

The 43 flights represented 5.7 total flight hours. Thirty of the flights were related to security surveillance and 13 were related to aircraft inspection.

In May, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) was selected as one of 10 lead applicants by the U.S. Department of Transportation to participate in the Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP). The goal of the UAS IPP is to conduct advanced drone operations in selected airspaces to generate data and knowledge for future UAS policymaking. The UAS IPP will be conducted over the next two to three years. The MSCAA IPP’s prioritization will focus on aircraft inspections and security/perimeter surveillance. 

MSCAA’s partners include the City of Memphis, Memphis Fire Department, Memphis Police Department, FedEx, Agricenter International, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, GE subsidiaries AirXOS and Avitas, Intel, Flirtey, 901Drones, and ForeverReady Productions.

Following is a summary of the operations and their locations:

  • The inaugural operation took place in August at Agricenter International and was conducted by the Memphis Fire Department (MFD) and 901 Drones with support from the Memphis Police Department (MPD). A video of this operation can be found here.
  • October 10 flights at the Liberty Bowl were conducted by MFD and MPD.
  • In mid-October, Intel conducted numerous flight tests at Arkansas International Airport (BYH) in Blytheville, AR.
  • On October 23 and 24, AiRXOS and Avitas conducted test operations at Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) in Victorville, CA.

Testing will continue at the Liberty Bowl, BYH and VCV through the end of the year.

More information about this program is available at www.flymemphis.com/drones or by emailing MEMUAS@flymemphis.com. In addition, MSCAA is seeking public opinions about drone activity through a survey, which is available at http://bit.ly/MEMdronesurvey.