Columbus, Ohio — Smart mobility doesn’t start and end on the roadways, it’s taking off in the skies as Ohio recognizes the need to advance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology, known commonly as drone technology. As a result, DriveOhio, the state’s center for smart mobility, and the Ohio UAS Center announced a new strategic plan to support UAS research and development, facilitating the state’s ongoing leadership position in this transformation technology.
With this plan, Ohio 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 package delivery and transportation safe and commercially viable. We aim to do all of this in Ohio.”
The strategic plan will tackle three main initiatives:
- FlyOhio to develop an unmanned traffic management system, bringing about the widescale use of drones for delivery and transport;
- 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.
Drone technology is already capable of transporting packages and people. However, there is no unmanned air traffic management (UTM) system in place that ensures drones can fly safely at altitudes below 2,000 feet, so government regulations require operators to always be in view of their aircraft.
FlyOhio 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.
Finally, FlyOhio will identify locations that can accommodate aircraft that takeoff and land vertically (known as vertiports), increasingly important as unmanned package delivery and transportation advance.
Ohio UAS Center Operations
Ohio is already putting unmanned aircraft to work in support and improvement of state and local government operations, as well as a broad range of services like project and environmental surveying, infrastructure inspection, project monitoring, and police and firefighting support. With this strategic plan, statewide data collection operations will include:
- bridge inspections
- aerial photography and mapping
- exterior and interior structure and facilities inspections
- construction and traffic monitoring
- quick clear operations for traffic accidents on Ohio’s roadways
- emergency management
- communications and promotional videos
UAS Workforce Development
DriveOhio and the UAS Center are also actively engaging with smart mobility workforce development stakeholders from government, industry, education and local communities across the state to identify pilot programs around drone technologies. Specifically, these programs aim to deliver benefits for a range of potential employees:
- Today’s workforce, through up-skilling and certification programs
- Tomorrow’s workforce, with capstone projects and work-based learning through internships and apprenticeships
- Emerging workforce, using K-12 problem-based learning and pre-K STEM programs
As workforce development is a core part of DriveOhio’s mission to support and advance Ohio’s smart mobility future, initiatives like these go hand-in-hand with new projects, helping to prepare workers for jobs in this new UAS sector.
“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 Fred Judson, managing director of the UAS Center. “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.
Read the DriveOhio and UAS Center Strategic Plan in its entirety and access additional resources at www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/uas/Pages/StrategicPlan.aspx.