Ohio research project will monitor traffic with drones

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COLUMBUS — DriveOhio, the state’s new center for coordinating smart mobility initiatives, recently announced plans to study the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), sometimes called drones, to monitor traffic and roadway conditions from the air along the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor.

The three-year, $5.9 million study is a partnership between DriveOhio’s UAS Center and Ohio State University’s College of Engineering.

“At DriveOhio, we are looking for innovative ways to integrate technology into our transportation systems. This project will help us explore the intersection between autonomous and connected vehicles on land and in the air,” said Jim Barna, executive director. “The goal is to understand how we can better manage traffic, roadway incidents, and roadway conditions using advanced technology and data analysis.”

Vehicle research

This research will include both air and ground vehicles and will complement ongoing work to test autonomous and connected vehicles along the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, a 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 between Dublin and East Liberty.

Unmanned aircraft will monitor traffic and incident response along the corridor in conjunction with the state’s current fixed-location traffic camera system. The aircraft will interact with sensors and communication equipment along the corridor to feed data into the state’s Traffic Management Center.

The project will also use sensors and communication devices to ensure the unmanned aircraft will not collide with each other or with manned aircraft, such as small planes and helicopters, that also use the lower altitude airspace.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000-manned aircraft are in the sky at any given time.

“One of the keys to better utilizing unmanned aircraft is to ensure they will not pose a threat to other aircraft traveling in the area. This research project will make the development of that safety system a priority so that other aircraft operations such as package delivery and air taxi services can be explored down the road,” said Fred Judson, director of DriveOhio’s UAS Center.

Project leaders

The project team will be led by DriveOhio and Ohio State University’s College of Engineering in conjunction with Cal Analytics, Gannett Fleming, AiRXOS (a GE venture), Gryphon Sensors, Transportation Research Center, Woolpert, the Ohio State University Airport, and Midwest Air Traffic Control.

The three-year research project is set to begin July 1.

“We’re excited to develop this system for Ohio, which will enable safe flight of unmanned aircraft and personal air vehicles beyond the line of sight of the operator,” said OSU professor James Gregory. “This system will pave the way towards integrating unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.”

DriveOhio was created by Gov. John Kasich on Jan. 18, as a center within the Ohio Department of Transportation to brings together infrastructure partners in Ohio with those who are developing the advanced mobility technologies needed to allow the state’s transportation system to reach its full potential.

The mission of the center is to support flight operations for local, state and federal government and agencies.

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