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Thursday, July 18, 2024


Successful Drone Tests Add to County UAS Experience

Drone prepares to deliver cargo to Coast Guard cutter during July test flight.

By Press Release

NORTH CAPE MAY – Cape May County was the venue for July 24-25 for flight tests by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in its mission to utilize unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to deliver emergency supplies to first responders after disasters.
According to a release, the tests, led by American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) and its subsidiary company Sky Scape Industries (SSI), were the latest in a long line of operations in which the county has hosted aerospace operations to boost economic development in the area.
Cape May County’s airspace and location, surrounded by water, is attractive for testing new flight technologies.
The DLA manages the global supply chain for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, 10 combatant commands, other federal agencies, and partner and allied nations. One of its key roles is providing food and water to first responders after disasters.
The recent flights tested whether a UAS could launch and land vertically carrying a payload consisting of First Strike Ration (FSR) meals and a case of water totaling 50 pounds. Flights were conducted at sites near the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal.
In one, a custom-designed UAS – some use the term “drone” – took off from the ferry terminal and moved land-to-land carrying the sustenance payload.
On its second mission, the aircraft carried the same payload from the terminal to a Coast Guard fast-response  cutter off the coast of Cape May.
Both target locations were located approximately one mile away from the takeoff zone.
“I could not be prouder of the AATI team,” stated Nate Ernst, the operation’s mission commander. “The DLA is looking to new methods of emergency response, and we are honored to help provide solutions that may one day save lives utilizing unmanned aircraft systems.”
Ernst, who grew up in Cape May County, is a long-time member of the Cape May County UAS Innovation Forum. The county formed one of the earliest public drone programs in the country and hosts a variety of public use flights.
AATI was founded by David Yoel, another long-time member of the county’s UAS Innovation Forum. For several years, he has served as the county’s subject matter expert in UAS.
AATI has operated under 11 FAA-approved Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs), including Cape May County’s, and has completed hundreds of safe and successful BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) UAS flights across the country.
When he wears his industry hat – as he did in the DLA trials – he is known for flying cutting-edge missions that forward UAS technology.
Yoel and Ernst have another series of flight in late August for another customer. Those tests will be conducted from a base in Upper Township. Operations are not flown over people or buildings.
“We are extremely fortunate to have David and Nate working here and a part of our UAS community,” stated Freeholder Will Morey, who oversees the county’s UAS program. “Experts like these are the reason that we are able to establish the county as a viable location for companies to test UAS technologies. This is leading us toward new and exciting economic development routes in Cape May County and into our growing regional partnership with Atlantic County as we work together to make this region an aviation hub.”
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