Brian Garrett-Glaser
By Brian Garrett-Glaser

As the managing editor of eVTOL.com, Brian covers the ecosystem emerging around eVTOLs and urban air mobility. Follow him on twitter @bgarrettglaser.

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Ohio’s department of transportation awards contract for economic impact analysis

Ohio’s department of transportation (ODOT) has commissioned Crown Consulting to conduct a six-month economic impact analysis of advanced autonomous aircraft technologies, a study that could help make the case for approval of new projects or greater statewide investment in this area.

Beta Technologies' Alia prototype
Beta Technologies and Joby Aviation are two eVTOL companies with a presence established in Ohio as they continue working with the U.S. Air Force Agility Prime program. Eric Adams Photo

The study will have a broad scope, examining drones, autonomous cargo aircraft, medevac organ transplant delivery, air taxis and other uses of autonomous aircraft in the state, estimating the potential economic benefit to be recognized by the region through these new industries.

Tom Davis, vice president of science and research for Crown, confirmed to eVTOL.com the Ohio study will be owned by the state’s department of transportation, which plans to make the results public.

Crown’s work, in partnership with the University of Cincinnati and NEXA Capital Partners LLC, will support ODOT’s DriveOhio initiative, which was formed alongside sister effort FlyOhio in 2018 to support smart mobility and autonomy efforts within the state.

“At DriveOhio we are focused on developing the transportation system of the 21st century,” Howard Wood, executive director of DriveOhio, told eVTOL.com. “Through innovative projects like the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, we are enabling automated and connected vehicle technology for the ground and the air. With SkyVision, a ground based detect and avoidance system for UAS, we see Ohio as the epicenter of advanced air mobility (AAM) development. We will leverage the findings of this study to insure the decisions we make in regard to AAM infrastructure and policy are in the best interest of Ohio and its economy.”

Ohio is also home to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the Air Force Research Lab, NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center, and many other centers of aviation research and major aerospace companies. Joby Aviation and Beta Technologies, two companies that have been awarded Phase III contracts with the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program, recently established a presence in the Dayton-Springfield region of the state.

In February, The Ohio State University hosted an urban air mobility conference to discuss statewide preparation for the emerging industry and demonstrate readiness to potential companies and investors.

One such preparation is the planned creation of an air corridor above I-71, which connects Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati by highway, to enable safe beyond visual line of sight flight and airspace management up to 2,000 feet AGL.

“We’re hoping to have statewide deployment for unmanned traffic management by 2022,” Fred Judson, director of the Ohio UAS Center, said at the event, intended to occur annually. “For urban air mobility, we’re hoping to enable limited operations along that I-71 corridor for urban and regional air mobility by 2021, with full operations by 2023.”

That planned corridor project will be “of particular focus” for the economic impact analysis, according to a press release by Crown.

Numerous market studies have been conducted concerning advanced air mobility technologies, fueling the rapid increase in investment the sector has seen. In 2018, Morgan Stanley predicted a $1.5 trillion market for urban air mobility by 2040. A study of 74 cities worldwide released by NEXA Capital Partners last year found a direct value of $318 billion to be captured in the next 20 years, including operator revenue, infrastructure and airspace management costs, and vehicle sales.

However, fewer economic impact analyses have been completed. An estimation of local economic benefit and net job creation — including predicted job losses in affected industries — these studies are often prerequisites for greater investment or the issuance of construction concessions by city or state governments.

New York, Nevada and Oregon’s departments of transportation have conducted similar studies with varying scopes and timeframes, according to a source with knowledge of the reports, though none of those reports have been released to the public. eVTOL.com has reached out to each department for comment.

An economic impact analysis for the Vancouver region is also under way, commissioned by the Canadian Air Mobility Consortium industry group, and is expected to be completed before the year’s end.

The article has been updated with more information from DriveOhio and a confirmation that the results of the economic impact study will be made public.

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