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Mission Possible: Taking the drone economy to new heights in Northeast Ohio

The innovative minds in advanced air mobility recently came together to uncover opportunities to get more drones in the air.

STOW, Ohio — Drones are taking off in Ohio. And that's exactly what Manufacturing Works wants. The economic development organization is working on advanced air mobility, taking the local drone economy to new heights. New technology, plus increased drone use has made it possible.

“We're seeing the value of I really can task this robot to go do what I needed to do,” said Kyle Snyder, a principal with Michael Best Consulting. “And that is these things like package delivery that is scanning and surveying. So, a lot of environmental use cases now.”

The use of drones in public safety is surging. Thermal imaging cameras and sound systems make them a good fit. Local safety forces saw how drones could help in different tasks, during a recent conference at Kent State.

AVT Drones go to work, in accident reconstruction cases. The drone pilot stays safely off a roadway while collecting data - that can be used in court. When AVT began using drones in 2006, they were told it was a "crazy" idea.

“Now, they've become such a tool to using your tool bag that it's absolutely like one of the fastest things that you could do to get and preserve physical evidence,” said Robert Nicholson with AVT Drones.

“We know we're getting accurate data. We're getting it quickly, we're getting it safely, and then we can go back and reconstruct anything we want,” remarked Kurt Whitling of AVT Drones.

The drone economy is also at work in the environment. UAVistas finds and tracks invasive plant species from the air. Giving land managers a clearer picture of how effective they are in controlling unwanted plants, with the goal of helping them reduce the amounts of pesticide they use.

“Finding invasive species, identifying them and tracking them over time. Invasive species cause a whole lot of issues, cost a whole lot of money,” said UAVistas CEO India Johnson. “And right now they're doing damage to our wetlands, which directly impact the health of Lake Erie and algal blooms.”

Using drones for package delivery has the attention of healthcare providers.

“How do we move medicines between clinics and hospitals? How do we get services out to people out in rural areas,” stated Snyder.

Add transportation to the list, air taxis are finally fulfilling the promise of flying cars. Beta is testing its fully electric vehicle in Ohio. Based in Vermont, they stop in Akron to recharge before moving on.

“Beta of course has they're charging station at Akron-Canton Airport, and that's pretty cool. It looks just like another charging station, but it is there. So, it's one of their stops as they're moving down to Springfield for testing,” said Snyder.

An estimated one million drone pilots now operate in the United States. With more uses being discovered, the market will rapidly change in the next five years. And Northeast Ohio wants to be upfront, as it continues to soar.

“I'm really hopeful, more hopeful than I have been before now, seeing all the different pilots and all different things that they're doing, because I think just about everyone here is doing something different with drones,” said Johnson.

NASA, including the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, is working on the next piece of the puzzle, how to handle the increase in drone traffic in the coming years. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on April l30, 2023. 


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