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Bombs Away! State, Railroad Test Drone-Driven Avalanche Mitigation

Feb 15, 2024 | News, Transportation

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State agencies collaborated to achieve a major milestone in avalanche mitigation technology, with successful tests of Drone Amplified’s Drone Avalanche Reduction Technology (DART). The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARCC) successfully deployed and detonated two CIL explosives on an US-made unmanned aerial system (UAS) to trigger two man-made slides to protect transportation infrastructure.

Demonstrating Drone Safety and Efficiency

The test, conducted in early January, builds on a foundation of prior technological advancements and collaborative efforts in avalanche mitigation, including reports from the US Department of Transportation dating to 2003, the Washington State Department of Transportation dating to 2010, and the work of Mountain Drones, dating to 2013, which demonstrated the feasibility of using a heavy-lift UAS platform to drop a single explosive round for avalanche control. This early demonstration highlighted the potential of drones in enhancing safety and efficiency in avalanche mitigation efforts.

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The development and deployment of Drone Amplified’s DART system have significant regulatory challenges, due to stringent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for carriage of dangerous weapons. DOT&PF’s project represents a technological leap and a pioneering effort in regulatory navigation.

“This demonstration represents a significant step forward in avalanche risk reduction for our public highways. The State of Alaska is moving away from military artillery as a primary means of avalanche mitigation, and will adopt Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS). UAS will help fill the gap where RACS are not feasible or economical,” says Timothy Glassett, DOT&PF Avalanche and Artillery Program Manager.

RACS are fixed-position detonation installations, commonly used in mountainous areas around the world, to protect infrastructure from natural avalanches. RACS are becoming the international standard for avalanche hazard reduction.

In a move to support wider adoption and development of drone-based avalanche control systems, DOT&PF will share all FAA waiver and approval documentation required for such operations. This will provide a blueprint for other states interested in deploying drone technology for avalanche mitigation.

To see a video about the project link here.

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