William Rioux WRDW
Ideas take off for drone cargo flights at Augusta airport 
July 20, 2022
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  • Augusta is ground zero for the future of unmanned cargo flight testing. 

    In time, the data collected at Augusta Regional will help NASA plan a way to make these flights safer. 

    While unmanned flights are little ways out, we get to watch it all develop firsthand. 

    “It’s a really exciting time in aviation right now,” said Diane Johnston with the Augusta Regional Airport. 

    That’s because we will soon see big Delta flights mixed with little drones that are helping pave the way for future technology at airports. 

    “Drones, unmanned systems, this new technology is the way that aviation is moving,” she said. 

    Augusta Regional’s new partnership with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks helps companies test new technology. 

    “Any drone operator that is working or manufacturer that has a product or service that needs to be tested will be able to come out and test at the Augusta Regional Airport,” she said. 

    Those companies gather flight data on those products, which is sent to the FAA which then sends it to NASA. Rules and regulations will be made off that data. 

    “This is the future of the aerospace, aviation, industry,” said Johnston. 

    Augusta Regional is looking to stay at the forefront with this plan. It includes adding a future drone zone, vertical and electric aircraft hangar, and an electric aircraft charging station. 

    “We had absolutely nothing about electric aircraft, we had nothing about unmanned aircraft, we hadn’t even started looking at it, and we all of the sudden realized there’s all this new technology, and we need to get ready for it. The FAA might be a bit behind the power curve, but the private industry is out there right now. They’re developing these, they’re operating them, and we need to be able to accommodate them as they come on board,” she said. 

    That also means bringing drone pilot training to Augusta. 

    Jeff Hemming with Carolina Drone Academy said: “What it’s going to do is open up a bunch of technology, and we’re at a perfect time where the rules and regulations are coming together to allow for a lot of different solutions.” 

    Those solutions will help Augusta Regional keep up with technology. 

    Johnston said: “That’s what all of this is leading to, is safe integration and accommodating these future technologies.”