The aviation business is nothing new to Ohio. The state is a major supplier to Airbus and Boeing and hosts about 150 airports. Back in 2003, the House of Representatives even passed a resolution recognizing Dayton’s role in America’s aviation history, noting that the Wright brothers were from that city.

But now Ohio is vying to become a major player in the next chapter of aviation history. The state is investing heavily in resources that it hopes will attract startups building drones, autonomous aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles to its cities and airports. The Ohio Department of Transportation announced last week that it will begin using new software sold by CAL Analytics to monitor drones in an attempt to prepare for an influx of new, futuristic flying vehicles in the state.

“It will be much cheaper than flying on traditional aircraft.”
— Rich Fox, Ohio Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center

The move is part of a larger strategy. Last year, Ohio became the first state in the nation to roll out its “Advanced Air Mobility” system, a massive effort to build the infrastructure to support and regulate flying taxis that are powered by batteries and controlled by artificial intelligence. Local officials hope these cars will eventually help deliver packages and transport people to and from cities and even outback areas.

At the same time, officials are betting that by building the foundation for testing and developing these vehicles, Ohio can lead the future of aviation and become a model for other state and regional governments.

“The main driver for building our infrastructure is to make it easier for companies to come to Ohio,” said Rich Fox of the Ohio Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “It will be much cheaper than flying on traditional aircraft.”

Officials see software from CAL Analytics, which previously received funding from the Ohio Federal Research Network, as a key next step. This software will help remote pilots fly an unmanned aircraft and will also assist the Ohio Department of Transportation in providing communications, surveillance and infrastructure monitoring. The state plans to deploy the system at the National Center of Excellence for Advanced Air Mobility, a new facility focused on eVTOL vehicles and other advanced air vehicles, according to Fox of the UAS Center.

The center, opened last September, is based at the Springfield-Beckfield Municipal Airport and is funded by the Department of Defense, the City of Springfield, and the Jobs, Ohio State Economic Development Agency.

The Ohio Expanded Air Mobility Framework, released by the Ohio Department of Transportation last August, outlines where all of this effort should be directed. Officials represent fleets of advanced aviation technology, including unmanned and automated aircraft, delivery drones and electric passenger vehicles, plying across the state. It is hoped that these vehicles will make short-distance travel cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

After all, officials will need to convince passengers to feel safe and comfortable on these vehicles, which can be a major undertaking.

However, there are real obstacles. Even diehard proponents admit that eVTOL is still a few years away at best, meaning that companies working on the technology are making a big and risky financial bet. KittyHawk, the flying taxi company backed by Larry Page, demonstrated its first non-line-of-sight flight — a milestone for its technology — in Ohio, but shut down last fall. Officials also need to figure out how to work with federal airspace and aviation regulatory agencies, and especially the FAA. After all, they will need to convince passengers to feel safe and comfortable on these vehicles, which can be a major undertaking.

There was progress. There are several aviation startups operating in Ohio today. Both Beta Technologies and Joby Aviation used the gym at the Springfield airport. In Springfield, Austin-based startup Lift Aircraft eVTOL unveiled its first vehicle, the Hexa single-seat flying taxi. Moog, an aerospace and defense company, also tested its SureFly eVTOL two-seat vehicle at Cincinnati-Lunken Airport.

Near Dayton, AFWERX, an Air Force startup incubator, uses Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for advanced air mobility work. NASA has also carried out other advanced air mobility work in the state, including a study of the noise levels produced by eVTOL aircraft while in motion.

Of course, other states are also trying to snatch a piece of this future industry. New York now has an FAA-approved drone corridor, and the state has invested tens of millions in drones. The companies have also been testing eVTOL in North Carolina, and NASA is investigating electric helicopters in Texas. However, the idea is that investing heavily in these efforts and addressing the real problems of the UAS and eVTOL systems will now preserve Ohio’s aviation history.

“We must continue to advance technology,” said Elaine Bryant, executive vice president of aerospace and defense for the Dayton Development Coalition. “There is a lot of research on AI, sensors and autonomy. Everything that will allow these vehicles to be efficient and allow us to move around and not only transport people, but also goods and services. “

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