Integration Pilot Program: San Diego’s foundation for emerging aviation technology

In 2017, the United Stated Department of Transportation, which oversees of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), launched the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) to build pathways that would encourage the expansion of the commercial unmanned aerial systems industry safely and cohesively with existing piloted aircrafts.

Capitalizing on San Diego’s rich aerospace history, industry relationships, and unique operational environment, EDC partnered with the City of San Diego’s Office of Homeland Security to become one of only 10 jurisdictions across the United States to participate.

Over the past three years, San Diego IPP has laid the groundwork for regional companies of all sizes to develop cutting-edge UAS technology here in San Diego by utilizing the streamlined FAA approval process, supporting homegrown talent, and positioning the region as a UAS center of excellence by encouraging the industry’s growth.

As we wrap up the program, below are a few of the key successes:

Public Safety

The challenge:
Chula Vista Police Department is largely understaffed—yet as the second largest city in San Diego County, it has been recognized at the tenth safest city in the United States with jurisdictions of more than 270,000 residents.

The solution:
In coordination with the San Diego IPP, Chula Vista Police Department became the first in the nation to utilize drones as a proactive public safety tool. The department saw drones as a new opportunity to create a Drone as a First Responder (DFR) unit as a safer, less expensive alternative to helicopter and officer units.

San Diego IPP helped Chula Vista Police Department obtain a FAA permissions and waivers to provide safe, transparent jurisdictional coverage. Ultimately, Chula Vista Police Department was able to dispatch UAS to remotely assess the scene of emergency calls for service.

The results:
Together, San Diego IPP and Chula Vista Police Department achieved great heights:

  • First public safety organization in the nation to be granted a Beyond Visual Line of Sight Certificate of Authorization.
  • First in the nation to achieve a Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight (“Close Proximity, Low Altitude”) Waiver. This enables police officers on scene to utilize small UAS to search behind obstacles, at a very low altitude to ensure safety for the officers, suspect, and potential bystanders.
  • First in the nation to achieve 2-to-1 Operations and is pending 100 percent jurisdictional coverage for a Public Aircraft Operator Certificate of Authorization. This enables the Remote Pilot in Command (the operator) to operate two drones at one time, an operation that required an entirely new FAA process to be created, and ultimately expanded service coverage for all residents in the City of Chula Vista.
  • Safe information dissemination to at-risk populations for COVID-19 response.
  • Statewide, nationwide, and international acclaim for public safety and innovation. San Diego IPP and Chula Vista Police Department received the 2020 AUVSI XCELLENCE Humanitarian and Public Safety Award, the 2019 California Police Chief’s Association Innovation Award, and were highlighted in UAS Norway, Chicago Tribune, Police Chief Magazine, Interdrone, Department of Justice’s DRONES publication, and more.

To date, DFR has responded to 4,303 calls, assisted in the arrest of 558 suspects, was the first to arrive on scene 1,987 times, and has an average response time of 224.49 seconds.

Notably, in 1,065 instances, DFR has been able to avoid dispatching officer patrol units on scene—freeing those resources for other service calls and mitigating potential officer-involved confrontations.

COMPLEX AND CRITICAL Delivery

Despite airspace complexities and difficult operating environments, San Diego IPP leapt at the prospect to test the viability of both commercial food and medical specimen delivery within our region. San Diego IPP partnered with Uber, Matternet, and UPS Flight Forward to accomplish cutting-edge, time-sensitive deliveries in San Diego.

Food Delivery

The challenge:
On the heels of a white paper on the future of urban air transportation, Uber Elevate was born. To bring its vision to fruition, Elevate determined a need for a multi-pronged effort at advancing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) efforts nationwide, but needed help obtaining permission for and conducting safe delivery testing.

The solution:
Through a series of tests and strategic public-private partnerships, IPP helped the company take the first step toward urban air transportation.

San Diego IPP matured Uber Elevate’s initial business model past short-distance flights at San Diego State University to focus on a more complex delivery route from coastal Chula Vista to the Coronado Cays. San Diego IPP and Uber Elevate worked with local public and private partners for three months to coordinate efforts for a single week of safe delivery testing and an official Part 107 Commercial Food Delivery in December 2019.

Initially focused on food delivery convenience for the end user, San Diego IPP and Uber Elevate ultimately found an opportunity to expand areas of service for regional small businesses and provide options for communities without equal access to food delivery.

The results:
Through this effort, San Diego IPP achieved:

  • The first real time Remote Identification test in the country. Remote Identification allows interested parties to utilize an application that enables the individual(s) watching to identify the drone operator and follow the drones path in real time.
  • Strategic public-private partnerships. To achieve one week of operations, San Diego IPP coordinated efforts with Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States Navy – North Island Naval Air Station, and the local field office at Customs and Border Protection to mandate a minimum altitude to avoid conflicts with existing aviators. Additionally, San Diego IPP worked with the Port of San Diego to create new land use agreements for take-off and landing zones in undeveloped areas along the San Diego Bay for the week of operations. Finally, the Cities of Chula Vista and Coronado both engaged in testing planning efforts and advocacy. The first official Part 107 Delivery was made to Coronado City Council Member, Bill Sandke.
  • Innovative safety process formation. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees two sanctuaries adjacent to the route, worked with the San Diego IPP team to create solutions to addresses the safe operations of UAS in, near, and around animal sanctuaries, in coordination with FAA and the Department of the Interior legal counsels.

Medical Specimen Delivery

The challenge:
With San Diego’s globally recognized expertise and innovation in life sciences, medical specimen delivery was a particularly important goal. With the ability to delivers medical specimens via UAS, San Diego healthcare providers could improve delivery speed and reliability, and ultimately cut costs and improve care. However, Matternet needed help obtaining waivers for night operations and flights over people to support its tests.

The solution:
After extensive groundwork, San Diego IPP helped Matternet obtain accommodations for proof-of-concept flights at UC San Diego Health’s Jacobs Medical Center, including a §107.39 waiver enabling operations over people and a §107.29 waiver enabling operations at night. Matternet and UPS Flight Forward were operable and making vertical moves in San Diego by early 2020.

The results:
San Diego IPP, with Matternet and UPS Flight Forward, accomplished:

  • 259 successful flight operations at the UC San Diego Health Jacobs Medical Center.
  • Two separate route approvals on the UCSD Health Jacobs Medical Center Campus.

Next Steps

After three years of aiding in the development and growth of an emerging innovation industry, San Diego IPP will not be moving forward with the FAA’s next step, BEYOND.

EDC will continue to work to ensure San Diego remains a welcome space to research, design, develop, test, and advocate for the drone community, and will continue to provide exemplary service for any UAS business interested in expanding their business or concepts in our region.

Finally, we are excited to continue working with our regional leaders to ensure that we support opportunities that advance this emerging industry, as innovation is the cornerstone to our region.

Katelyn McCauley
Katelyn McCauley

Senior Manager, Economic Development

 

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San Diego is one of the first regions to deliver medical specimens via drones

Blood samples delivered by drone? Medical specimens via drones may soon become a reality thanks to a new partnership between UPS Flight Forward and Matternet, in conjunction with UC San Diego Health.

Drone on black stand at UC San DIego in front of large building

Medical specimens take flight

Last week, the first medical specimens were delivered by drone as part of a larger effort to integrate drones into San Diego’s airspace as part of the Integration Pilot Program. UC San Diego Health will be utilizing UAS as a means to deliver medical specimens and supplies to expedite health care services. It has become common practice for labs to operate separately from a hospital. This new partnership may mean faster diagnosis, treatment, or even peace of mind.

“Right now, most biological samples must travel between sites by courier car, within designated hours,” said James Killeen, MD, clinical professor of emergency medicine and director of information technology services at UC San Diego School of Medicine in UC San Diego’s announcement. “That leaves the system vulnerable to the vagaries of road congestion, accidents, construction, and more. Travel time can be slow and unpredictable. A drone can fly over such obstacles in a much more direct way, and take just a few minutes to cover the same distance.”
If successful, drones may even be used for organ transport in the future.

Why San Diego is creating a drone hub

According to the FAA Aerospace Forecast and Drone Analytics, the global drone industry is projected to be worth $43 billion by 2024. As a region, San Diego has made a name for itself by capitalizing on nascent technologies that turn into major economic engines – think genomics and ICT/satellite technology.

That’s why in 2017, EDC – in collaboration with the City of San Diego – spearheaded San Diego’s application to serve as a site for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). San Diego as one of 10 jurisdictions that received the designation and the densest urban environment selected.

Today, EDC serves a much larger role as the program manager through an agreement with the City of San Diego. In addition to streamlining the process and clearing regulatory hurdles for operators (think companies like Matternet), the IPP also looks to position San Diego as a UAS center of excellence by encouraging the growth of the industry and building homegrown talent.

To achieve these goals, the IPP has four focus areas (International Relations, Environmental Survey, Public Safety, and Package Delivery), and boasts over 20 private, non-profit, government partners.

How the IPP launched SD’s first medical specimen flight

On  February 25, the FAA officially approved the UC San Diego Health flight route that enabled Matternet, as the UAS operator, to carry out this mission until April 2023. UC San Diego is the second hospital system in the nation to transport medical specimens via drones.

Related EDC articles and research:

IPP update: Uber to start using drones for its food delivery and more

Uber to start using drones for its food delivery and more

The Integration Pilot Program (IPP) reached a large benchmark on the food delivery mission, which included a successful test flight with Uber Eats on San Diego State University campus. Starting this summer, Uber will be using specially crafted drones developed by its flight arm, Uber Elevate, to grow the company’s food delivery program. Giving way for Uber Eats to operate in the region’s airspace, San Diego Office of Homeland Security has been integral in this initiative with coordination from EDC, in order to obtain the necessary waivers and certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the IPP. Read more about this program here.

The IPP is rapidly moving forward on the first-ever international Unamnned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flight, which is made possible in coordination with EDC’s partners at CAPE Aerial Telepresence and the City of Tijuana. The project has also been working diligently with Matternet, the medical delivery operators, to determine the route for the first blood sample test delivery.

Next up: EDC, in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, is planning the process for a drone conference, which is slated to take place in February 2020. The themes include San Diego as a center of excellence in the emerging technologies industry, inclusivity, and deep dives into the unique challenges of UAS integration. A planning committee is being formed, involving possible participation from local government partners, local industry leaders, nonprofit stakeholders, and higher education institutions. Expect more details on the conference coming soon.

EDC-led program helps Chula Vista PD hit new drone milestone

From surveying land after natural disasters to delivering packages, drones offer a world of possibilities to advance society and unlock economic potential. However, in order for this type of drone work to become a reality, they must be able to operate beyond a visual line of site(BVLOS). At the moment, no one is allowed to fly BVLOS in U.S. airspace without obtaining a special, hard-to-get waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Chula Vista Police Department is the exception. As part of the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP), San Diego is one of only 10 agencies nationwide selected to partner with private sector entities to accelerate safe UAS integration and innovation both regionally and nationally. In October, the Chula Vista Police Department announced a new test program to deploy drones as first responders. Now, thanks to the support of CAPE, Airmap and, Skyfire, the Chula Vista PD has become the first public safety agency within the 10 IPP destinations to receive a beyond visual line of sight waiver. This waiver will help Chula Vista continue to expand its Drone as First Responders program across the city providing faster responses and better services to the community.

San Diego’s IPP is comprised of the city of Chula Vista, the city of San Diego, and San Diego Regional EDC. Recognizing the potential of drone technology for the regional economy, EDC plays a key role in driving the IPP work and supporting the cities of Chula Vista and San Diego with successful integration.