Drones Among Hottest Holiday Gift Item, FAA Urges Caution

Nov 27, 2015
arsElectronica / Flickr Creative Commons

After Thanksgiving comes another annual observance - the holiday shopping frenzy.  And among the top items on wish lists this year are unmanned aerial systems, or drones.

Forbes says the commercial drone market will generate more than a billion dollars in the U.S. this year, while the FAA predicts a million Americans will find the remotely operated machines under their Christmas tree next month, fueling fears that inexperienced or careless hobbyists will fly them into active airspace, and into possible collisions with jets and helicopters.

A retired Air Force drone is used in the classroom at Sinclair Community College.
Lewis Wallace / WYSO

Sinclair Community College is unveiling its new drone test center in a Monday afternoon ribbon-cutting that coincides with a first-of-its-kind conference about unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The renovated test center was funded with $4 million from the state and $1 million from Sinclair, and it’s meant to be used by drone entrepreneurs and educational groups from around the country. It includes manufacturing facilities and a new wind tunnel for UAS testing. Deb Norris is the VP of workforce development at Sinclair.

Sinclair Receives First UAS Exemption For An Ohio College

May 19, 2015
EmmyMik / Flickr Creative Commons

Sinclair Community College has been granted a Section 333 exemption by the Federal Aviation Administration, which means that Sinclair can operate unmanned aerial systems, or drones, commercially even before broad regulations go into effect. It’s the first community college in the country to get the exemption, which will allow Sinclair to expand its National UAS Training and Certification Center.

Andrew Shepherd, director of unmanned aerial systems at Sinclair College, says operating commercially will open up lots of options.

A retired Air Force drone is used in the classroom at Sinclair Community College.
Lewis Wallace / WYSO

Supporters of drone development are anxiously awaiting a first draft of Federal Aviation Administration regulations expected to come out soon. Right now hobbyists can fly drones—the industry term is unmanned aerial systems or UAS—but companies are prohibited from flying them outdoors unless they have special federal authorization for individual flights. The FAA said it would release a proposed rule by the end of 2014 to regulate commercial drones in U.S.

City of Springfield, Ohio.
City of Springfield, Ohio.

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted Clark State Community College permission to fly a drone in parts of Clark County and it will fly over land owned by the City of Springfield, but leased to local farmers.

Clark State recently announced it would integrate drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, into a new precision agriculture program. Getting FAA authorization to fly was the next step. Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin indicated that the students should benefit.

Woolpert gets its small drones from Florida-based manufacturer Altavian.

Commercial drones could be in Ohio’s skies sooner than expected, because the Federal Aviation Administration has granted a Dayton company an exception to the current ban on drones that aren't for government or recreational use.

A three-day conference on unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, starts Tuesday in Dayton. This is the third Ohio UAS conference, and the first one since the greater Dayton area was turned down in its bid to become a federal testing site for commercial drones; Mo McDonald with the Dayton Development Coalition says he still expects the industry to grow in Dayton.

Lewis Wallace / WYSO

Thursday is the second day of meetings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for small businesses in the defense industry. The event is part of an effort on the part of the Air Force to work more with small contractors; base officials say it helps them stay efficient as the government cuts defense budgets.

Those cuts have been bad news for local industry, which provides the Air Force with everything from computer systems to research to airplane parts—but not all contractors are feeling the same pain.

Large contractors cash in


Sinclair Community College has announced it’s teaming up with Southern State Community College to expand and collaborate on its unmanned aerial system program.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, are expected to become a big commercial market in the next few years, and a lot of entrepreneurs have their eyes on Ohio’s farm fields. Sensor technology and cameras on the vehicles would let farmers scan huge areas more easily, looking for mold, pests or standing water, just for example.

Jeff Hoagland, CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition,
Lewis Wallace / WYSO

This week on Under Construction we’re talking accountability: how are public funds for economic development spent and how are they tracked? Dayton Daily News investigative reporter Lynn Hulsey recently found the Dayton Development Coalition isn’t forthcoming with that information. The coalition, which is a nonprofit, funnels millions in government funds to local development projects.