2020: The Year Woolpert’s UAS Services Truly Took Off

2020 has challenged us all in unthinkable ways, while also proving our resilience as a company and industry. As I reflect on this year—coming off an interactive and informative, albeit virtual, AAAE/Woolpert UAS conference—I can’t help but be proud of our Woolpert team, clients and partners. Together, we had the most progressive and vigorous year of unmanned aircraft system expansion and integration to date—all while working from home!

This year, Woolpert saw dramatic growth in its UAS capabilities and operations. Our team grew by nearly a dozen Part 107 pilots, added 16 new platforms, continued to fly across the continental U.S. and added Alaska to our UAS map. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Woolpert also established its UAS research hub at the National Aviation Research and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. This office is devoted to our support the FAA and other federal clients at the William J. Hughes Technical Center.

Woolpert also gained traction this year in its work with large UAS, researching how they will affect airport design and developing guidelines for the Airport Cooperative Research Program. We also were contracted to help protect our airports by developing a guideline that will assist in planning for and responding to UAS threats with the National Safe Skies Alliance. These exciting research projects are just two examples that showcase the evolution of Woolpert’s UAS services from a geospatial tool to a focal area in our new-age transportation system.

As I look back on 2020, I think of the boldness and bravery of our field pilots, who were willing to travel across the country to support our clients during a global pandemic. I think of the challenges our staff overcame in not only working remotely and finding new COVID-friendly workflows but doing this while continually elevating our UAS group. Next year, thanks to their efforts and the support of our clients, when our teams can work together in person, I am proud to say that we will not have missed a step. We enter 2021 looking to further advance urban air mobility and unmanned traffic management, while working to ensure our UAS capabilities soar to even greater heights.

Zachary Shuman

Woolpert Aviation Program Director Zachary Shuman leads many of the firm’s unmanned aircraft system and advanced air mobility projects. He has helped develop standards for operating UAS in controlled airspace, vertiport design and airspace management.