ODOT developing system to track drones and prevent midair collisions

The Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration have teamed up to create a technology that “detects and avoids” drones from colliding with other low-flying aircraft such as medical helicopters or crop dusters, according to a news release.

As the number of private drones rises, the concerns about how to keep airspace safe for everyone rise as well.

The Uncrewed Traffic Management system features three ground-based radar locations in central Ohio. For drone users, operators must request clearance to fly and use the airspace from the FAA, similar to how a commercial pilot would before take-off.

Both drone pilots and manned aircraft pilots would be able to see each other and safely share the airspace, the release states.

“It gives drones an understanding of where they are in the airspace, who’s around them, and what they can do to essentially safely navigate from A to B all while giving manned traffic the priority,” said Dr. Matt McCrink, lead scientist for Ohio State’s research team.

The system will give Ohio an “affordable and reliable” option to provide protections against threats in the air and will allow drone operators to safely fly beyond visual line-of-sight and without ground observers.

“The last mile package delivery is what the future holds. The FedExs, UPSs, Amazons – that 2-hour delivery that they guarantee, this technology will support that,” said Richard Fox, airspace manager for the Ohio UAS Center.

The system would also allow for more drones to be used in emergency situations, relaying valuable information to crews on the ground.

“The future is now, and this is just the latest chapter in Ohio’s storied history of pioneering flight technology,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “We have the ability, the knowledge, and the resources to be the top destination for this industry to thrive.

The system would also help carry Ohio into the next major step in drone technology — advanced air mobility — which uses electric vertical takeoff and landing of aircraft to move people and cargo.

“An economic impact study found that over the next 25 years, advanced air mobility could benefit the Ohio economy to the tune of $13 billion, 15,000 additional jobs, and $2.5 billion in tax revenues,” the release said.

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