UAS & Robotics

Ohio leverages Air Force ties in drone competition

The regional competition to grab a piece of the emerging unmanned aircraft market has mostly focused on commercial applications. An “airspace study” sponsored by the state of Ohio is leveraging the presence of major Air Force installations like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to boost its prospects.

The Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study is expected to be completed in early 2014. Promoters said Dec. 6 that the study is intended as a model for the Air Force as it seeks to integrate unmanned aircraft into its operations. Another focus of the drone integration study is improving the Air Force’s ability to manage crowded airspace at busy bases like Wright-Patterson.

The Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio conducts research on unmanned aircraft. “The idea behind the study is to solve military airspace requirements in a way that meets the needs of other airspace users,” Maurice McDonald, executive vice president of the Ohio group overseeing the airspace study, said in a statement. “That includes the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA, which are working with the Air Force in developing ways to integrate unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.”

Study recommendations would assist the Air Force and FAA in developing new rules for operating unmanned aircraft in the vicinity of the Air Force base located near Dayton, Ohio.

Ohio and Indiana partnered last year to create a UAS Center and Test Complex. The partners are among a growing list of Midwestern and western states vying to host one of six FAA unmanned aircraft test sights. The FAA released its initial civil drone roadmap in November for integrating private unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace. Once UAS rules are in place, the agency estimates that 7,500 small unmanned aircraft could be flying in U.S. airspace in the next five years.

The Ohio study is sponsored by the state’s Development Services Agency.

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