Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) in the US has partnered with Woolpert to utilise unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technologies for the airport and associated airfield operations.

Following this partnership, SAV will integrate drone technologies into its regular operational programmes to carry out inspection, monitoring and facility management works.

According to Woolpert vice-president and Geospatial Aviation practice leader Thomas Mackie, the integration of UAS for Phase 1 of the project was completed last month.

Phase 1 works included daytime perimeter surveillance works and wildlife management programme.

“In the next phase, SAV plans to expand UAS flight operations into the airport operating area with local air traffic control.”

Mackie said: “We started by coordinating with the airport leadership and operations team (Engineering, Security and Crash, Fire, Rescue) and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to ensure there was regional and national collaboration and buy-in, followed by a lot of research into SAV’s existing policies and technology, learning and understanding their operational routines.”

In the next phase, SAV plans to expand UAS flight operations into the airport operating area (AOA) with local air traffic control (ATC).

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This phase will see the airport acquire a drone, assist staff to become licensed Part 107 pilots, as well as make suitable changes to the systems, sensors, processes and data management techniques to support UAS operations.

Mackie added: “We drafted a Concept of UAS Operations (CONOPS) for the airport, putting everything on the table, flight schedules, safety areas, risk management considerations, communication protocols.

“From there we built internal procedures and procedures with ATC, completed a Safety Risk Management Matrix for planned missions, and developed checklists, controls and responses to irregular operations.

“While all airports have distinct needs and directives, this guidebook illustrates how commercial airports can conceptually go about flying a drone in support of operational needs.”