SPRINGFIELD – Gov. John Kasich’s state transportation budget is full of innovations and investments in technology that will improve how people and goods move, and the innovations aren’t just limited to ground transportation.
Springfield is at the epicenter of one of those innovation investments: unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones. The governor’s budget includes investments in research and development of drone technology, and this emerging industry is set to play a major role in everything from logistics to agriculture. Not only could this bring national and international recognition to the Springfield area, it could also spur economic development and jobs tied to the drone industry.
Ohio’s Unmanned Aircraft System Center and Test Complex (UAS) based in Clark County is home to a research project to develop a ground-based “sense-and-avoid” system that would allow drone operators to fly their aircraft even if the operator can no longer see it. Because current federal regulation prohibit drone flight beyond the operator’s line of sight, this project, the first of its kind in the nation, will give Ohio a major advantage as companies all over the world look to use this emerging technology to speed up delivery of products directly to consumers. With total state and federal investments of $5 million, the project is a cooperative effort with the State of Ohio, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Wright State University located at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has tested the use of drones for inspecting hard-to-reach areas of bridges, to monitor the erosion of hillsides in southern Ohio to determine the risk of rocks falling on highways, and for surveying and mapping. Drones have also been used to help farmers more precisely and efficiently spread fertilizer and herbicides on their fields and have aided law enforcement in search and rescue efforts.
It certainly makes sense to have Ohio on the cutting edge of unmanned aircraft technology given the fact that our state is the birthplace of aviation. The sky is the limit – literally – for this industry, and Springfield is leading the way thanks to the vision and investment of Gov. Kasich’s budget.
Jerry Wray is Ohio Department of Transportation Director. ODOT submitted this column to the Urbana Daily Citizen for local news distribution.