New innovative drone technology to be tested

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 08:30

Innovative drone technology will be tested in various areas of the city during the week of 9/20/21 to determine if the technology could be of use here. The City of Winchester is participating in an Innovative Municipalities initiative to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of using drones for certain services. Virginia Beach-based company, DroneUp, will be conducting the test scenarios in partnership with City staff and The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), the non-profit operations arm of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA).

The five different programs to be tested with drone technology include:

  1. Water meter usage data collection
  2. Local road pavement inspections
  3. Energy loss detection (Green Initiative)
  4. Accurate, up-to-date City maps
  5. Tree inspections and observation

“Through the Innovative Municipalities initiative and by partnering with DroneUp, The CIT, and various other organizations, the City hopes to enhance its drone program and take full advantage of the opportunities drones can provide in improving efficiency of local government operations,” stated Scott Kensinger, Emergency Management Coordinator.

Smart City Technology Program:

The City of Winchester is one of several localities in the Commonwealth that has been approached by the CIT to learn what is involved and possibly become a “smart city”. According to the CIT, smart cities leverage sustainable and resilient technologies to collect data and automate processes.

“If Winchester continues to grow its technology opportunities, we could potentially attract a new type of commerce and manufacturing to our city and provide educational opportunities for local students,” explained Shawn Hershberger, Development Services Director.

The City began testing smart city technology during Tropical Storm Ida. Flood sensors were installed in Town Run and Abrams Creek to collect flooding information to be added to a state-wide dashboard. The dashboard monitors water flow rate and rise data.

The City is also working with the Virginia Flight Information Exchange (FIX) and the Winchester Regional Airport to test the use of drones for commercial purposes while ensuring the safety of the airspace for both manned and unmanned operations.

City’s Drone Program:

The Emergency Management Division currently operates the City’s Drone Program and manages the Drone Team, currently consisting of 10 certified pilots. The team utilizes five drones to assist in various situations for public safety, public services and communications activities.

During Monday’s Rouss Review Podcast (September 13, 2021), City Manager Dan Hoffman and Communications Director Amy Simmons talked with Scott Kensinger about the drone program and next week’s tests. Click here to listen to the podcast.