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Early IPP test flights take off

As part of its response to emergencies, the San Diego Fire Department is testing a telepresence and data management platform that allows officials to livestream video from unmanned aerial systems and manage data related to drone flights.

In a test of the city's UAS Integration Pilot Program, San Diego officials simulated a call for service at the Scripps Ranch Community Park, less than half a mile away from Fire Station 37. DJI M200 drones equipped with the Cape Aerial Telepresence platform were launched in response.

The drone pilot uses the Cape Operator app to map the device's journey and create geofences around no-fly zones. The takeoff and flight itself are automated.

The platform also connects the video feed from the drone to the Cape Cloud, where it can be accessed in real time. In this exercise, responders used iPads to watch the feed as they  headed to the site.

The feed can also be viewed and controlled from command centers through a portal that allows the city to manage who has video feed access along with authorizations for drones.

The Cape Cloud manages the data on flights, including GPS coordinates, elevation information  and sensor and camera.

“So if there is any question about a drone's role in a response it’s indisputable, the evidence is all there,” Cape CEO Chris Rittler said.

Other Integration Pilot Program participants have also been testing various UAS-based applications. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has been using drones to carry 10 pounds of bait to resupply feral hog traps. It also tested night missions, using a night-vision camera mounted on an Intel Falcon 8+ drone, and demoed Open Drone ID, an open standard that offers a Bluetooth-based solution for the remote identification and tracking of UAS.

In Blacksburg, Va., Wing, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, delivered of a popsicle that was ordered over a mobile application, testing flights beyond the line of sight over areas where people live.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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