By Congressman Steve Austria
The advancement of modern technology with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) continues to play a critical role in our nation’s defense and homeland security. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base along with the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), Wright State University Research Institute (WSURI) and Sinclair Community College continue to produce cutting edge technology and development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). However, Ohio lacks the sufficient airspace to meet the demand for testing new systems and to enable manufacturers to test fly the aircraft being built. Bringing manufacturers and defense businesses to our region to build UAV aircrafts could potentially bring new businesses and jobs to support missions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Springfield Air National Guard Base and Department of Defense. Having the necessary airspace to test fly UAVs in our region is critically important to support the research and development that takes place around the Miami Valley region for the Air Force, numerous private sector employers, and our local universities – all which are leaders in UAS technology.
In an effort to meet our region’s needs, I included language in the FAA Re-authorization bill, which establishes six new test areas for integrating unmanned aircraft systems with the necessary airspace to support the UAV research for five years. The FAA Re-authorization bill recently passed Congress and now awaits the President’s signature. Ohio and our region have already begun its work to contend for one of these new pilot programs.
In addition, Ohio has applied for temporary airspace known as a certificate of authorization (COA) with the FAA. Wilmington was recently granted a COA and the Ohio National Guard has applied with the FAA for a second COA. COAs are temporary conditions granted up to one year while the new pilot programs, in which I included in the FAA Reauthorization, allow test sites to fly up to five years.
I am confident that our region will remain at the forefront of UAS development and can competitively pursue one of these new pilot programs. If selected, it would allow areas near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard Base the much needed airspace and certainty for industry development, training, and commercial manufacturing of UAV’s to provide incentive to relocate and invest in Ohio, potentially bringing hundreds of new jobs to our area.
Department of Defense Faces Tough Budget Constraints
Last month, Defense Secretary Panetta provided a preview to the FY2013 Defense Budget, which included a request for military base closures. I know many of you have expressed to my office your anxieties about base closures in our area. Wright-Patterson, the largest single-site employer in the state, remains critical to the Air Force and to the economic success of our region. Along with Wright-Patterson, other military facilities located in Ohio’s 7th Congressional District include the Springfield Air National Guard Base, the Air and Army National Guard Bases and the Navy Reserve Center at Rickenbacker International Airport, and Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC).
In the next two weeks we will receive more details from the Defense Department on its proposed FY2013 budget, specifically with regard to any potential Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) series as it directly affects our region. Some consolidations may be an opportunity for the consolidation of additional jobs at Wright-Patterson and our region. As the sole member from the Ohio delegation on the House Appropriations Military Construction (MILCON) Subcommittee, which oversees all funding for BRAC, I intend to work very closely with the Defense Department to strongly advocate for Wright-Patterson, the Springfield Air National Guard Base, Rickenbacker and the DSCC to assess the impact of BRAC closures on our region.
(Note: For perspective, see Attorney John Whitehead’s article Dawn of the Drones on the development and use of unmaned drones in America.]