Plans are moving forward to launch a drone incubator at Cape May County airport in the next few months.

The so-called ‘incubator zone’ will be used for drone testing, development and research, and to incorporate a variety of cameras and sensors onto drones to perform a variety of different tasks in the public and private sectors.

“A lot of young companies, young innovators are interested in the development of their businesses and products, and we’ve seen there’s really a need for this type of collaborative environment,” said Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey.

He said there's a "real opportunity in our region to support development, certainly within the region of these young companies.”

The idea of the incubator is to create an area where test flights can be made, and companies can begin to work together.

“They may have different products, but they’ve got very similar hurdles to cross, so we think we can bring some value to that process,” he said.

Morey said hopefully when the incubator opens this spring, four or five companies will set up part-time drone operations, and then more will follow.

“There’s office space, there’s conference space, there’s what we’ll call tinker space, where folks can actually develop their technologies, make adjustments," he said.

He added Cape May County airport is well-suited to become a hub for the development of startup companies, multi-rotor-type systems and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle systems.

“Ultimately we see companies establishing roots here and we see it leading to a number of technologies and jobs,” he said. “We don’t know if drones will be built in Cape May but certainly we seen research and development and opportunities for those jobs in Cape May County.”

Don Sebastian, the president of the New Jersey Innovation Institute at New Jersey Institute of Technology, as been working for two years to help develop Cape May County airport as a demonstration hub for flying drones.

“We’re working with the people who make the specialized equipment, the payloads, the things you would put in a drone to accomplish a mission, and we’re working with the people who have the creative ideas,” he said.

Sebastian said by creating this kind of environment, the hope is everyone will grow and develop their ideas and products in a more efficient, faster way.

He said drones are being developed to perform all sorts of duties in many different fields, including “agriculture, in transportation as surveillance and accident assessment, emergency first-responder operations, medical deliveries.”

“We can’t even begin to imagine all the different clever ways in which various forms of unmanned aerial vehicles can come to provide services and benefits that will ultimately affect us all with a faster, cheaper and better quality of life," he said.

He said drone flight information will be monitored, tracked and reported to the FAA, “so we begin to build a record of confidence, that when a drone says it’s over a particular location, that’s where it actually is.”

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