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New York, New Jersey Port Authority to trial cargo drone operations

Mere months after the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey tested the viability of transporting goods across the Hudson River via a small uncrewed aircraft, the bistate agency has entered into a partnership with a drone cargo operator and a drone start-up to establish fixed drone routes that may one day be used to send high-value cargo around the region.

“The Port Authority’s cookie cargo demonstration in May 2023 proved successful drone delivery across myriad federal, state and local jurisdictions was possible” according to the press release. “The agency put out a request seeking companies interested in making drone cargo delivery a reality in the region. Skyports Drone Services, a U.K. drone airline that operates survey, inspection and logistics drone services, and Elroy Air, a drone start-up with a name inspired by the smartest member of the Jetsons cartoon family, were selected in late 2023 to help the Port Authority explore possible uncrewed aircraft routes to move small, high-value packages across the region quickly.

“The cookie cargo drone test flew the box of Raspberry Rallies from Brooklyn to Jersey City and back in a half hour, whereas a vehicle traversing between the same two locations would have taken up to 2 hours.

“Elroy Air is currently developing an uncrewed hybrid EVTOL (electric vehicle take-off and landing) aircraft that will be capable of carrying 300 pounds of cargo over a 300-mile range. Skyports, for example, currently provides drone delivery services for time-sensitive documents, medicines and vaccines, spare parts and tools, and mail in difficult-to-reach or complex environments.

“The cookie cargo test that led to the new exploratory partnership was a product of the Port Authority’s staff innovation hub, a voluntary group of employees across disciplines and departments with a shared interest in testing new technology or finding new uses for off-the-shelf technology. The hub started in 2022 as a more formalized way for Port Authority employees to do what they’ve done for decades: find innovative solutions to challenging aspects of their work or to improve on the agency’s overall mission to keep the New York-New Jersey region moving.

“To further encourage the work of the innovation hub, the agency has included USD3 million to fund employee pilots in its 2024 budget, up from USD350,000, which was seed money set aside for the hub’s first year in 2022.”

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(Image: Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)

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