With New Strategic Plan, DriveOhio and the Ohio UAS Center Bring Smart Mobility to Every Altitude, Position Ohio as a Leader in Drone Technologies

When Dayton’s own Wright Brothers took their first flight in December 1903, they only reached about 10 feet off the ground. Today’s flights take us easily to 30,000 feet and above, as air traffic control monitors and guides planes safely across the sky.

Interestingly, thanks to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), known commonly as drone technology, there is now a need for an air traffic management system for altitudes below 2,000 feet. Why? Because drone technology has advanced rapidly the last few years and is now capable of transporting both packages and people, but there is no system in place to ensure drones can fly safely without colliding with other aircraft, objects or people. As a result, government regulations require drone operators to always be in view of their aircraft.

Thanks to a new strategic plan announced today, DriveOhio, the state’s center for smart mobility, and the Ohio UAS Center will undertake development of just such an unmanned air traffic management (UTM) system, as well as the continued support of UAS research and development, facilitating the state’s ongoing leadership position in this transformational technology.

With this plan, Ohio continues its storied history in aviation, and demonstrates its commitment to investing in the research and infrastructure needed to advance UAS technology in developing new jobs, business investment and economic growth.

“UAS technology is advancing just as quickly as autonomous and connected vehicle technology, and Ohio understands how both can work together across multiple smart mobility initiatives,” said Jim Barna, executive director of DriveOhio. “Companies operating new UAS technologies need opportunities to test and deploy them, and the nation needs a traffic management system that can make drone delivery and transportation safe and commercially viable. We aim to do all of this in Ohio.”

FlyOhio and Unmanned Traffic Management

To develop a low-altitude UTM system, the strategic plan introduces a new initiative called FlyOhio, which is researching SkyVision with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), a $5 million ground-based detect-and-avoid radar system at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. Additionally, FlyOhio will explore a second UTM solution along the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, a 35-mile stretch of highway between Dublin and East Liberty, Ohio, which is already a testing ground for autonomous and connected vehicles and communications.

“If we can track and manage that airspace, we can open ourselves up to a whole host of new modes of transportation and commerce,” said Fred Judson, managing director of the UAS Center. The most immediate implication is parcel delivery, where near-future models include connected semi-trucks equipped with drones that are dispatched to deliver single packages, while the truck continues serving customers along its route.

In addition to FlyOhio, the strategic plan also introduces two other initiatives: Ohio UAS Center Operations to facilitate the use of the technology for a broad range of business services; and Workforce Development to educate and create the skills needed for smart mobility jobs around this technology.

“The Ohio UAS Center has been at the forefront of unmanned flight testing and operations, and this plan lays out our strategy to continue our leadership role in advancing this country’s smart mobility operations to the sky,” said Judson. “We’re excited to continue working with companies, government entities and local communities to develop unmanned traffic systems, promote UAS technologies and use cases and develop the workforce here in Ohio to fill the jobs these new technologies will present.”

Operating as part of DriveOhio, the UAS Center, located in Springfield, Ohio, serves as the state’s one-stop shop for those developing, testing and deploying UAS technology in Ohio. As both UAS and autonomous and connected vehicle technologies advance, these teams work collaboratively on air and ground-based smart mobility applications, leveraging resources to make smarter decisions and avoid duplicative efforts.

To read the DriveOhio and UAS Center Strategic Plan in its entirety, click here.

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