During PSA TEC 2016 in Denver, there was a great deal of discussion over the future of robotics and autonomous systems and operations. The following represents some cutting edge technology and some early adopters, who understand the environment and are working through the various issues and making history along the way.
I had mentioned during the panel discussion on robotic applications that I had been working with the First Innovation Team (FIT), a non-government agency that works with the United Nations on disaster relief, humanitarian operations in both the response and recovery phases, and was in the final planning stages of conducting a “Do Tank” workshop at Cape May, New Jersey. The “Do Tank” connotes a group of innovators working together to collaborate, innovate and execute solutions arrived at via a group think. The concept is extremely effective.
Similar to sessions that New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) had already completed with the leadership from Cape May and the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), using a Purdue University model called “Strategic Doing”, and specifically what is called “Agile Strategy Workshop”, which uses a game environment to focus on issues and concerns and work the problem to develop outcomes and solutions.
The “Do Tank” leader was Desiree Mantel-Anderson. She is the “chief wrangler” at FIT, who had been working a scenario which was going to be a “first ever” event working with public and private sector entities to support an academic and aeronautical research project between John Hopkins University Hospital, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Innovation Institute, Cape May County and the DRBA.
The private sector participants were Flirtey, a drone start up, Fovea Aero, an aerial photography company and Simulyze a software company that was doing research and development with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which provide advice and guidance and oversight to the project.
Dr. Timothy K. Amukele, MD, PhD, the Medical Director at Makerere University-Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration Core Laboratory, has recently authored a paper entitled “Impact of Unmanned Aerial System (Drone) Transport on Routine Chemistry, Hematology, and Coagulation Laboratory Results” with co-authors: Lori J. Sokoll, Daniel Pepper, Dana P. Howard and Jeff Street. The paper has been submitted for publication in a number of professional journals.
Working with Dr. Amukele, who led the health and medical research effort and agreed to participate in this project, we capitalized on his previous work with unmanned aerial systems (UASs) as a transport and simulated an off shore transport of a pathogen (simulant) from a ship to a mobile laboratory or to a transport hub for onward movement to a testing facility. Most of Dr. Amukele’s work to date is in sub-Saharan Africa, where such a capability would be invaluable in working remote areas where high rates of communicable disease are prevalent. The use of drones to provide the ability to access a quality laboratory service would be invaluable and the implication of using UAS’s as a disruptive technology in its embryonic stages of commercialization would literally be a life saver.
The operation consisted of a Flirty drone picking up and delivering the samples and then a return flight to deliver instructions and prophylaxis to mitigate and enhance treatment. The team achieved another significant milestone and made history with the first off shore delivery and return flight of an unmanned system operating in National Air Space (NAS).
We had successful flights conducted in a very safe environment. This was a major achievement that focused on collaboration, communication and execution and leveraged the enabling technologies. All of the data was shared with the participating companies and agencies.
Flight operations were enabled by a certificate of authorization (COA) from NJIT with oversight conducted by NJII and the New Jersey Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site (NJUASTS). Stockton Aviation Research Park also participated and provide support to the flight operations.
Rutgers University participated with a unique technology demonstration, which consisted of a UAS quadcopter that could dive and perform missions underwater. Rutgers utilized a COA issued to the University and the drone was flown by a student.
This event was well attended and generated a great deal of interest in this cutting edge technology at all levels. It helped greatly in advancing the research efforts of all who participated and, similar to our Robolliance, provided an excellent opportunity for networking.