New Jersey American Water Conducts Second Annual Drone Emergency Response Drill

New Jersey American Water conducted a functional exercise with the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park (NARTP) to demonstrate how Unmanned Aircraft Systems can be used to support natural disaster recovery efforts across New Jersey. This year’s exercise, conducted in collaboration with national, regional and local emergency management and government agencies, focused on improving the efficiency and coordination of response efforts following a major flood.

“As severe storms and flooding continue to impact New Jersey, it is critical that we consider how best to improve future response efforts by utilizing available technology and enhancing opportunities for coordination,” said Mark McDonough, President, New Jersey American Water. “New Jersey American Water has a critical duty as an essential service provider to do everything we can to try to maintain operations and reliability for our customers—even when an unexpected disaster strikes. While natural disasters such as floods may be largely uncontrollable, we can control how we respond and how quickly we respond through the investments and decisions we make today.”

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Today’s event followed a successful tabletop exercise held on October 13, 2022, at New Jersey American Water’s headquarters in Camden. During the tabletop exercise, various participants from local, state and federal government agencies, industry partners and emergency management agencies met to plan and coordinate how to best incorporate the use of drones to improve and inform traditional emergency response and Search and Rescue operations.

This year’s drill was conducted as the state approaches the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Nearly a decade later, New Jersey has experienced several damaging floods and natural disasters, serving as an unfortunate reminder of the need for UAS technology to accelerate response, improve coordination between first responders, government agencies and essential service providers and safe lives.

“Events such as today’s, demonstrate the benefit of investing in state-of-the-art UAS technology to adequately assess damage and provide critical real-time imagery and intelligence,” said Howard Kyle, President/CEO, NARTP. “We feel that today’s exercise also demonstrates an important need for change. Current Federal Aviation Administration guidelines do not permit immediate reconnaissance drone flights following a major storm or flood. New Jersey has the opportunity to improve our protocol and response efforts to improve efficiency, and now is the time to act on this and be a leader in this space.”

During the flood exercise, multiple aircrafts were dispatched to locations in Atlantic and Somerset counties, including New Jersey American Water’s Raritan-Millstone Plant and Ocean City water and wastewater distribution system. UAS flight and live imagery data was streamed in real-time to the NARTP “Thunder Room” in Egg Harbor Township, where industry partners, regulators and public safety officials gathered to watch the simulation.

The exercise was led by New Jersey American Water and NARTP and conducted in collaboration with industry partners and various local, state and federal agencies including:

•             American Aerospace Technologies Inc.

•             Atlantic City Fire Dept.

•             Atlantic City OEM

•             Cape May PD

•             Censys Technologies

•             FAA SOSC

•             Iris Automation

•             New Jersey Innovation Institute

•             New Jersey State Police

•             NJ Office of Emergency Mgt.

•             Somerset County OEM

•             U.S. Coast Guard, SDB

•             Unmanned Safety Institute