Ohio Study to Guide Air Force UAS Flights over U.S.

Next year, the state of Ohio will complete a study designed to help the Air Force figure out its plan for flying unmanned aerial systems inside U.S. airspace.

Next year, the state of Ohio will complete a study designed to help the Air Force figure out its plan for flying unmanned aerial systems inside U.S. airspace.

This has become a controversial subject lately. Critics worry that the U.S. Military and other federal agencies will use battlefield-tested UAS to spy on American citizens. On the practical side, the idea of thousands of  flying machines of all sizes entering the country’s crowded airways is likely to create a lot headaches for air traffic controllers.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently projected that as many as 7,500 drones will be flying over the country within in five years. Companies like Amazon and Dominos Pizza are already dreaming of door-to-door, aerial-delivery service.

The Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study, known as OASIS, will help figure some of this out. The state-funded study kicked off in February 2012 and is intended to serve as a national model for the Air Force as well as federal, state, and local governments, aviation groups, academic institutions and private industry, according to Maurice McDonald, Executive Vice President for Aerospace and Defense of the Dayton Development Coalition, which is administering the study.

“The idea behind the study is to solve military airspace requirements in a way that meets the needs of other airspace users — 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,” McDonald said in a recent press release.

Last year, Ohio partnered with its neighboring state to create the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex to fly unmanned systems. The OASIS study will help determine the ultimate capabilities of the Center, including support of Air Force research and development flight test requirements. The Center has applied to the FAA to become one of the six national sites to test the integration of unmanned systems in the national airspace system.

“Ohio has complex airspace needs because of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is involved in research and development of unmanned aircraft systems,” McDonald said.

The study will leverage and expand the state’s capabilities, particularly in improving the ability of unmanned systems to sense and avoid other aircraft in the same airspace. The process has involved a review of the test plans of the Air Force Research Laboratory, interviews with laboratory program leaders on upcoming unmanned systems development, and examination of the Defense Department Science and Technology Strategic Plans.

The resulting recommendations are intended to guide the Air Force and the FAA in structuring new rules that will govern flying unmanned systems in the vicinity of Wright-Patterson, which is located outside Dayton, Ohio.