Jen Boyer
By Jen Boyer

Jen is a 25-year journalism and aerospace communications professional, writing for various publications, OEMs, associations, flight schools, and operators. She is dual rated as a helicopter flight instructor with instrument and instrument instructor ratings, and a private airplane pilot.

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Ohio hosting air mobility symposium

The future of air mobility is a complex, multi-faceted undertaking requiring coordination, collaboration, and partnership between industry, academia, and government. Building on its leadership legacy in aviation, Ohio aims to lead the effort. The state is hosting an industry-collaborating symposium later this month designed to build these partnerships and ensure the success of future VTOL flight in the state and beyond.

Ohio SkyVision bus
Ohio’s SkyVision program is studying a ground-based detect-and-avoid system for drones, part of the state’s larger efforts to advance autonomous aircraft technology and air mobility. Ohio DOT Photo

The Ohio Urban Air Mobility Symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 27, in the Ohio State University Blackwell Inn Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio. This event, put together in partnership with DriveOhio, Ohio State University (OSU), and the OSU student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), will bring together an impressive range of experts to encourage conversations and partnerships in air mobility.

Speakers and panelists range from private operators like Uber Elevate, UPS Forward Flight, and Elroy Air to government entities including the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA Advanced Air Mobility, and the State of Ohio. Academic scholars from Georgia Tech and OSU, representatives from manufacturers Sikorsky, Honeywell Aerospace, and AiRXOS, and engineering firms WSP USA and Radiance Technologies will also participate, as will the Vertical Flight Society and VyrtX, a firm specializing in coordinating expedient organ transportation for transplants.

Ohio already sits on the cutting edge of urban air mobility, recently taking on a number of initiatives in that space. The FlyOhio Initiative is working to create the country’s first airspace corridor for unmanned beyond-line-of-sight flight. Its SkyVision program is studying a ground-based detect-and-avoid system for drones, and a project to study the Economic Impact for Advanced Autonomous Aircraft Technologies will be awarded in the next month.

“Ohio recognizes this emerging domain as ‘advanced autonomous aircraft technology,’ encompassing not just small unmanned aerial vehicles, but also transportation of passengers and cargo through lower-altitude airspace to better connect communities,” explained symposium founder and lead organizer George Valcarcel, an OSU senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering. “A one-day conference to bring together industry, government, and academia, including students, will drive tremendous impact, starting those conversations and partnerships that are critical to long-term success.”

Ohio sees advanced autonomous aircraft technology as an integrated system of vehicles and support structures, not just within urban areas but between them, from drones to manned eVTOL aircraft. For any of this to become a reality, clear rules on air traffic control, and who controls it, must be determined. Ground infrastructure must be safely designed and implemented with input from manufacturers, municipalities, and operators. Everything from radar, tracking, and aircraft separation to safety design requirements must developed and placed. And for any of these moving pieces to be successful, all stakeholders involved should be a part of the planning.

“This unique state-level-plus-university coalition we’ve created to start this discussion is something that is truly representative of the partnerships required in the long run to advance research and development, testing, and the integration of air mobility into our communities,” said Valcarcel.

The Ohio Urban Air Mobility Symposium is open to any interested parties. More information about the symposium can be found on the event website — u.osu.edu/ohiouamsymposium — including information on speakers, organizing partners, the agenda, and how to register.

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