Leadership and Meaningful Results for Historical COVID Drone Delivery

Leadership and Meaningful Results for Historical COVID Drone Delivery

Upstate drone test flight carrying COVID test kit (photo: CNYCentral)

TruWeather Solutions (TWS) delivers bona fide results in the Upstate Medical Center COVID test-kit drone delivery flights on the 14th and 15th of January. TWS outperformed all weather data sources by highlighting the threat of mission impacting winds for the historic flight in downtown Syracuse 24 hours in advance. Our accurate weather forecast gave organizers confidence to reschedule the event to an earlier time. Therefore, turning a certain weather cancellation into a successful demonstration.

TWS continues to tune our algorithms and accurate weather forecast capabilities to deliver real return on investment to our clients. As we work with government and private sector entities, we are making final tweaks to our TruFlite V360° micro weather analytics system. Additionally, we are improving the client experience within our weather display and integration software for Pilots in Command, Fleet Managers, and Unmanned Traffic Management Systems. We really are the best end to end weather solution for UAS!

As powerful and precise TruFlite V360° is, combining innovative science and technology with a Meteorologist produces better results. There are times when decision-makers want to discuss an uncertain weather situation with an expert to make sound operational decisions. This is precisely what happened in Syracuse, NY last week while supporting a proof of concept COVID drone operation. We were consulted about the weather uncertainty and the impact of winds.

The weather in upstate NY is a bit dicey this time of year. DroneUp partnered with NUAIR and Air Upstate to demonstrate the transport of COVID-19 test kits from the SUNY Upstate Medical University building to the Upstate Biotech Accelerator. This was seven blocks travel distance (or roughly 2,400 ft). The DroneUp pilots practiced Wednesday at the NY UAS Test Site in Rome, NY, and then on Thursday, in Syracuse. The final demonstration occurred on Friday in front of the local media and other VIPs. The drone, used during this demonstration, can fly in winds over 20 mph. However, the payload dropped the threshold to 13 mph. The simulated test kits suspended eight feet below the Inspiron drone and weighed a little less than one pound. The wind threshold was lower because the package could blow around in stronger winds. This challenges the drone to maintain the intended flight path.

On Thursday, TWS was forecasting Friday’s wind speeds to increase throughout the morning. Especially at flight level, the winds would reach the 13 mph threshold by the scheduled 11 AM mission launch time. This resulted in TWS predicting a “No Go” for the mission.

MissionCast weather forecast on the day of the demonstration

The NUAIR Chief Operations Officer, Tony Basile, was surprised. None of the traditional weather outlets were calling for such wind. That being said, Tony knew keeping the schedule for an 11 AM “No Go” would disappoint the media outlets, dignitaries, and others if cancelled. Therefore, Tony moved the scheduled Friday flight from 11 AM to 9:30 AM. YES…he rescheduled based on a more accurate weather forecast.

Early Friday morning, we observed the windsock at the top of the takeoff location measure winds of 6-10 mph.

Surface wind speeds out of the East at 8-10 mph at Syracuse Airport.

The flight launched at 9:30 AM and the drone landed safely. Shortly after, the wind began breaking the 13 mph threshold at around 11 AM. Had the crew used the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast from Syracuse Airport (about 5 miles north of downtown), they would have been unaware of the real threat, as the forecast was for 5 knots (~5.5 mph) through 3 PM.

TAF KSYR 151140Z 1512/1612 07005KT P6SM FEW030 BKN200
TEMPO 1512/1514 5SM BR
FM152000 12012KT P6SM BKN025
FM160200 10012G20KT 6SM -SHRA OVC018 WS020/15037KT
FM160500 10012G19KT 4SM -RA OVC010 WS020/15042KT
FM160900 11010KT 2SM -RASNOVC007 WS020/16040KT=

Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) for Syracuse Airport.

Surface winds out of the East to East Northeast at 9-13 mph at Syracuse Airport. Higher, no go speeds were likely at flight level.

We are aviation meteorologists with 35 years supporting Air Force and commercial drone operations. One could imagine that if the crew tried to fly unsuccessfully at 11 AM, the blame would be on the “weather people” and the organizers would have to provide a previously recorded video to the media as a consolation prize for waiting in the cold for a live demonstration. This shows how easy it is to reduce the impact of weather when the right tools and weather expert sources are applied.

NUAIR made the day was all about the mission, not the weather…which is how TWS likes it. Congratulations to NUAIR, Upstate Medical, AirSpacelink, Drone-Up, and all the other stakeholders that made this game-changing medical delivery demonstration happen. Here is the CNY Central News article about the demonstration: Upstate testing drone flights to fly COVID test kits | WSTM (cnycentral.com)

By Gary Graeff, TWS Operations Manager

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