A future where drones drop off your online orders is another step closer this week after a new record was set for the world's longest drone delivery. On May 5, a fixed-wing HQ-40 UAV carried a package more than 97 miles (156 km), under the watchful eye of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS).
Drones from companies like Amazon, 7-Eleven, Domino's and UPS have already taken to the skies to deliver packages and pizza to customers, but those trips are usually short, last-mile trials. The record-breaking UAV journey covered 97 miles from a location in central Texas to carry a pneumatic part to the city of Austin.
Controlled remotely through a cellular communication link, the drone followed a predetermined flight path through the National Airspace System (NAS). Unfortunately, current regulations in the US prohibit drones being flown outside line of sight, so a team of observers had to be dotted along the route to make sure the aircraft remained visible at all times.
"This was the most challenging, logistically-intensive, and longest package delivery demonstration recorded to date using cellular technology in the NAS, and allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate innovative capability – a demonstration necessity for the UAS industry," says Chris Walach, Director of the Nevada UAS Test Site. "Drone package delivery in an urban and remote environment is the wave of the future, and Nevada is leading and helping to grow this major commercial endeavor. These package delivery milestones prove that new UAS technology enables the safe integration of UAS into the NAS for long-distance and urban package deliveries."