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What Is a Droneport?

Airport. √ Vertiport. √ Droneport? Stay tuned.

Illustration of a future droneport.
Illustration of a droneport design proposed by Amazon Inc. in a patent application. [Image copyright Amazon Inc., via Greg Bain & Company.]

Drones will be part of daily life sooner than most people realize. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for example, has designated zones where commercial drone operators can begin to develop, test, and improve their UAVs for daily use – the delivery of packages, medicines, emergency equipment and supplies, to name a few.

But most of the imagery we’ve seen depicts a drone in flight or a drone dropping off a package. So, the questions are these: Before it takes off for its mission, where will a drone – a fleet of drones – call home? Once a drone has completed its mission where will it go?

What Is a Droneport?

In February 2022, Catapult Connected Places, Met Office, and Urban-Air Port tackled this question and here’s what they said:

“A Droneport is defined as an infrastructure with a capability of operating and hosting drones, whether that is Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) or Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft and is guided by six constructs:

  1. An Infrastructure – which employs Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to enable aircraft and payload turnaround, including charging/fueling and a maintenance capability;
  1. A unique regulated and certified localized controlled airspace for safe aircraft management;
  1. Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) system to monitor aircraft entering a Droneport-controlled traffic region, enabling essential situational awareness;
  1. Aviation Regulation – Civil aviation regulation adaptions are constantly being developed to match the accelerating changes in the EVTOL operational and UTM sector. Flight safety is paramount;
  1. Planning – Interaction with landowners, planning and governmental bodies is critical to determine Droneport integration, not only from a dimensional footprint perspective but how air corridor networks pass over other land users and how end to end Droneport interlink with other existing infrastructures; and
  1. Public acceptability.”

Our Drones, Your Concerns

The study also identified 10 strategic issues that should be addressed as the public and private sectors embark on this new type of aircraft facility. According to the MetOffice, Urban-Air Port, and Catapult, these consist of:

  1. The public realm. How will the droneport impact the public environment?
  2. Environmental impact. How might emissions, biodiversity, and aircraft emissions impact the environment– biodiversity, for example?
  3. Existing transportation networks. Will the construction and operation of a droneport impact local, regional, and national transportation networks?
  4. Legacy impact. Will the operation of a droneport have an effect on a conservation area?
  5. Safety. All transportation infrastructure and operations begin and end with one mandate: Safety first. Will the planned droneport impact public safety?
  6. Privacy. With the lower altitudes and nontraditional routes many drones will operate in, how will a nearby droneport impact individual and neighborhood privacy concerns, noise, surveillance, and potentially, cybersecurity breaches?
  7. BVLOS. When a UAV is being operated beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) how will operators manage landings, package delivery, and power range issues?
  8. Flood zone. Will the operation of drones and droneports cause, hinder, or otherwise impact flood zones?
  9. Fire risks. With safety being the highest priority, the dangers a droneport might contribute to fire hazards must be considered.
  10. Noise impact. One of the biggest concerns being considered by the UAV industry is the impact UAV noise will have on local communities.

Drones, drones, and more drones still

The UAVs that are inevitably going to become part of society’s daily life, likely by 2030, have to takeoff and land somewhere. Large commercial operators, such as Amazon Inc., are already planning for a drone-filled future to fulfill their customers’ orders.

In July 2023, Kalispell, Montana, US-based design firm describes a high-rise droneport Amazon Corp. is seeking to patent.

The proposed droneport design depicts a multistory structure where semi tractor trailers offload packages where UAVs will then depart and return via a pair of vertical tunnels.

How other enterprises, such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, and national postal services will address drone deliveries remains to be seen. They will need to address all the aforementioned concerns, if not more, some of which have not been considered as is sometimes the case between drawing board plans and real-world operations.

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Nanci Mora