Regional Transit Authority in Tampa, FL deploys its first self-driving vehicle

Oct. 16, 2020
The shuttle is equipped with several sensors made up of radar, lights, and cameras.

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, the city of Tampa pilots a self-driving vehicle with an eye toward expanded deployment in the future, and advancements in UAS flight planning and processing.

Tampa’s first self-driving shuttle hits the road

Tampa's first self-driving shuttle is now on the road. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) has deployed the all-electric vehicle to see how it can fit into larger public transportation plans down the line.

“It’s been a longtime project for HART. It’s just a fabulous moment for us to see this live and up and running,” says Ruthie Reyes Burckard, HART’s deputy chief of Transportation.

The driverless shuttle is riding on a “virtual rail,” which means it is on a set route, similar to a street trolley. According to Joe Moye, CEO of Beep, the company that programmed the vehicle, the shuttle is actually safer without a human driver.

“If somebody were to step out in front of the vehicle, compared to the reaction time of a human, it’s literally 10 times faster as far as its ability perceive and react,” Moye explains.

The shuttle is equipped with several sensors made up of radar, lights and cameras, which allows it to know when something is in front of it. It can safely stop or get around whatever is in its path.

The project was funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to see how people use it and to research if future driverless shuttles can be used to connect with other transportation in the Bay Area.

“Right now you have to get in your car to get around,” says David Gwynn, the FDOT District 7 secretary of Transportation. “These allow for transit opportunities for smaller vehicles to be used in areas where larger ones aren’t feasible but then tie into the larger networks.”

The pilot program will last a year, with the option of extending it another year. The shuttle is free to use.

Esri announces two major capabilities in its UAS flight planning and processing solution

Esri has announced two major capabilities in its UAS flight planning and processing solution, Site Scan for ArcGIS, that will enable governments and critical infrastructure organizations to meet hardware and software regulations in the US and Europe.

Esri has an established partnership with Auterion that will allow security-conscious US organizations to use Site Scan to plan and execute missions with the Auterion-powered Freefly Astro drone.

For organizations in Europe with data sovereignty requirements, a new and fully independent instance of Site Scan for ArcGIS has been deployed to European servers, which ensures that organizational data resides within the region.

“The relationship we have established with Auterion is key in being able to offer high-quality, secure drone software to our US customers looking to take advantage of our advanced, secure, drone-based imagery collection and management platform,” says Richard Cooke, Esri director of imagery and remote sensing.

“Additionally, through the development of the EU deployment, an even wider range of customers located in Europe will be able to maintain their data and data processing locally.”

Organizations that require drone imagery for visual inspections, site monitoring, asset management, and situational awareness use Site Scan for ArcGIS, which is an all-in-one, cloud-based drone mapping solution for managing fleets and collecting, processing, analyzing, and sharing data products. The solution is used by a variety of industries including architecture, engineering, construction, natural resources, infrastructure, and government. Esri says that Site Scan provides value to customers through core capabilities such as scalability, collaboration, time saving, and now enhanced security functionality.

With the US government having recently issued a growing number of advisory warnings and bans on the use of drones that pose security risks, these precautions have “adversely impacted federal agencies and private firms that manage critical infrastructure, causing them to adopt incongruous drone data capturing and processing workflows that consist of multiple vendor solutions,” according to Esri. Now, the company can offer these agencies a single, end-to-end drone solution that integrates Freefly Astro, using US Department of Defense-approved Blue small UAS software architecture from Auterion, and is fully supported by Site Scan.

“Our expertise in providing an enterprise drone platform based on open-source software enabled us to meet the needs of the US government and governments worldwide,” explains Dave Sharpin, CEO, Auterion Government Solutions. “We are very excited to partner with Esri and provide [its] users with our groundbreaking technology.”

By law within Europe, data from publicly funded or critical infrastructure projects cannot leave the European Union (EU), Esri notes. Site Scan for ArcGIS has been deployed to a server cluster in Ireland to enable a scalable drone workflow. European customers that require their data not be transmitted outside the region can now leverage this server cluster to meet project requirements.

The European deployment of Site Scan is available today. The Freefly Astro and Site Scan integration will be available for customers by December.

Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI

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