The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday gave the green light to the U.S. Air Force for the testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) at an Ohio air park which was formerly used as a logistics hub by international shipper DHL.
The certificate of operation was given to the Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and lets the Air Force fly small, remote-controlled aircraft at the air park.
Pending federal legislation, approved by the U.S. Congress and waiting on the signature of President Obama, authorizes the creation of six permanent sites for the development of “detection techniques for small (UAV’s) and to validate sensor integration and operation of (UAV’s).”
Ohio legislators are making the case to the FAA for Ohio to be one of those sites.
Other states vying for permanent selection as test sites include in Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland and Arizona.
While the federal bill calls for development of “military and nonmilitary unmanned aerial system operations“, FAA officials stressed the testing would not involve weapons.
Research for the first-ever domestic drone test program will be coordinated between Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s Research Laboratory, the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), if Ohio is selected.
In a public air park development plan released in December 2011 by the Clinton County, Ohio Port Authority, funding for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is anticipated to increase by nearly $2 billion. Additionally, the aerospace industry in Ohio is expected to grow 7% over the next four years.
“Research and development for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is a major strategic initiative for the United States Military,” the Air Park Executive Summary stated. “Given proximity to Wright Patterson Air Force Base — the region’s largest employer — partnership opportunities should be explored.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in his Feb. 7 “State of the State” address, said the unmanned drone program will help improve the state’s economic viability and declared that Ohio is open for business.
“How did we go all these years without recognizing the sheer brilliance and excellence of Wright Patterson Air Force Base?,” Kasich said. “Did you know we’re flying, in a very limited way, unmanned vehicles down there? Do you know that unmanned vehicles are the future of aerospace? And down there, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, they have the sensors, the people, the technology. We just haven’t been able to get it all together.”
Kasich said the FAA decision could change the whole face of Ohio.
“Let’s take advantage of what we have down there to drive this and we’re working with the delegation and working with the Pentagon to see, along with the General Ashenhurst, to see if we can get this done and leverage our experience, not just in flight, but also in manufacturing.”
In a June 20, 2011 article, Big 3 News explored the Wright Patterson Air Force Base Research Lab’s role in the development of “micro-drones”.
“Aerial vehicles the size of insects and capable of being used for covert urban surveillance are being developed and tested at U.S. Air Force research laboratories, including Dayton, Ohio’s Wright Patterson Air Force Base,” the article revealed.
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