Operation Last-Mile: Critical Drone Delivery Testing Report

Operating Procedures ● Checklists: ​ The Airboss provided preflight checklists on paper which were taped to the tables under the pilot canopies. However, the pilots stood facing away from the tables and the checklists appeared to go unused. In future exercises, a system must be selected from the myriad of options to ensure that pilots use checklists for preflight, postflight, and maintenance checks during the exercise, and the Airboss must enforce their use. ● TakeOff and Landing Zones: ​ A number of people noted that we did not cordon off the takeoff and landing zones as definitively as we might have to ensure safety and limit pilot distractions. ● “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”: ​ The Blue Team featured two firefighters who were used to high-stress situations. Their flight time to target, time on target, and flight time home were the best among the teams. They attributed their performance to the rigors of firefighter training in communications and operations. They know that repeating processes is the key to consistent performance. Their communications were low key and concise. They talked about and pre-planned their moves before they started the motors. For example, they studied the maps the most before beginning flights. The non-public safety pilots caught on relatively quickly but the training and experience that current or former public safety members lend themselves to successful pilot operations. ● Fly to the Furthest Target First: ​ When the goal is to fly to multiple targets as efficiently as possible, fly to the furthest targets first. Let’s say that consumes 25% of your battery. Then you fly to a closer target and it consumes 20%. You’re at 45% when you go to the third, even closer target. You might be at 30% and be able to get that 4th flight in on that battery. If you went in the other order, you’d never attempt that furthest drop on less than 40% battery, so you’d change out with a lot of battery left. ● Cheating on the Takeoff/Return Altitude: ​ For most flights, the Airboss directed the pilots to take off and achieve a certain altitude before proceeding to their targets. The Airboss also directed pilots to return to base at a certain altitude and then descend straight down to their takeoff/landing pad. It was observed that on manual flights the pilots sometimes cheated on both the takeoff altitude and the return altitude. In other words, they flew toward their targets before achieving the specified altitude and started descending upon return before being directly over the takeoff/landing pad. This was highlighted in the pilot briefings but may need to be reinforced more strongly and frequently to ensure altitude deconfliction in all cases.

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