An airspace analysis is making the safety case for seeking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for Elevating Health Care Access (EHCA) to operate beyond line of sight medical drone deliveries between the Virginia Eastern Shore and Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. The initiative is supported by the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA) at Old Dominion University, DroneUp, Riverside Health System, and the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission.
According to the press release:
Unmanned Systems Robotics Analysis conducted the study of the planned operation area by examining airspace considerations, special use airspace, proximate aerodromes and a series of other diverse factors to evaluate operational risk. The approach closely follows the FAA’s guidance for Safety Risk Management (SRM) used to evaluate unproven drone operations for waiver or authorization approval. The full study is located on www.VIPC.org.
According to the study, the area is largely devoid of aircraft below 400 feet and complicating airspace or operational factors, thereby reducing overall risk. It also says risk could be further mitigated by primarily navigating over farmland and the Chesapeake Bay to avoid populated areas and ground hazards. The region’s generally flat geography, absence of relevant terrain obstructions, and the relatively mild climate with average temperatures above freezing collectively provide favorable conditions for routine drone operations.
EHCA successfully launched in October, employing drone technology to enhance healthcare accessibility by delivering medications directly to patients within a two-mile radius of the Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital on the Virginia Eastern Shore. Funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s SMART Grants Program and supported by a $75,000 grant from VIPC, the project aims to expand its operations to Tangier Island next year.
“The proposed medical drone delivery route to Tangier Island addresses public needs while demonstrating a harmonious integration of technology and safety,” says John Costulis, deputy director of VISA. “This data-drive airspace analysis was done in a way that is familiar to the FAA so that it might become a standard approach for providing data in support of drone delivery waivers.”
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