The North Carolina Department of Transportation was honored this week for its pioneering use of drones to respond to hurricanes and deliver medical supplies. The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) named NCDOT’s drone program as the 2019 Most Innovative State Program at its annual convention in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday night.
Also Tuesday, NCDOT Director of Aviation Bobby Walston was honored with NASAO’s Kenneth A. Rowe Ambassador for Aviation Award, in recognition of his career contributions to and advocacy for aviation in North Carolina and the nation. “We’re beyond grateful to have won these honors,” said Walston. “Our office has worked hard over these last few years to build a forward-thinking, innovative program that will benefit North Carolina’s people and its transportation system for years to come.”
NASAO honored NCDOT for its use of drones to respond to Hurricanes Florence, Michael and Dorian, and the delivery of food and medical supplies. The NCDOT used drones after hurricanes to monitor and document flooding, road conditions and traffic impacts in a way that had never been done before. In March of 2019, the state agency helped facilitate the first ever for-revenue drone delivery service in the nation, with UPS and Matternet delivering medical supplies and samples to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh.
Already in 2019, NCDOT’s drone program has won awards from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Southern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The agency is a finalist for another award from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. That honor will be decided by a public vote.