- Associated Press - Saturday, October 15, 2016

CAPE MAY, N.J. (AP) - Marcus Silva had only been flying drones for eight months before he participated in an aerial demonstration Friday afternoon on the beach behind Convention Hall.

It’s a hobby he’s grown to love.

“I would call it a technologically enabled out-of-body experience,” Silva told The Press of Atlantic City (). The 30-year-old Rutherford was wearing video goggles that allowed him to fly his drone from the perspective of the cockpit.

Silva and a group of drone enthusiasts from North Jersey called Safety Third Racing participated in the second annual Cape May NJ Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) Conference, which took place at Convention Hall on Thursday and Friday.

And while Silva and other members of Safety Third call drones a hobby, local leaders at the conference said they viewed them as a potential economic boon for the region.

“This city is thrilled to be partnered with the DRBA (the Delaware River and Bay Authority) and the county government because this represents the development of cutting-edge technology,” Cape May Mayor Edward Mahaney said.

The Cape May Airport in Lower Township, which is operated by the DRBA, is the site of several drone-research projects.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us with the test site,” said Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo.

LoBiondo said Verizon ran a trial two weeks ago at the airport to find out if a drone would be able to provide mobile connectivity to residents during emergency weather situations. He said the results of the test were “extremely promising.”

Casey Halverson, the chief technology officer at Middle Township-based Cellular Tracking Technologies, said his wildlife-tracking company attended the event to see how drones could help their business.

“It’s relatively cheap, and it may be the best route to go,” he said.

Others, like TJ Fenerty, are veterans of the drone business. Fenerty’s company, Navmar Applied Sciences Corp., based in Warminster, Pennsylvania, started developing drones for the military but has since expanded.

He said the conference gave him the chance to discuss partnerships with other companies.

“I identified six companies we wanted to talk to,” Fenerty said.

He said Navmar has also done testing at the Cape May Airport. They even surveyed damage done to the airport during the June 21 microburst that hit the area.

“You can see its application in emergency management,” Fenerty said. “We can do it better, faster and cheaper than what the helicopters can do.”

On Cape May County’s involvement in drone development, Fenerty said: “They’re at the forefront of it.”

___

Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

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