In collaboration with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), CAL Analytics has launched a low-altitude air traffic management system designed specifically for drones to support statewide operations. With the increasing proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, the need for a robust system to manage low-altitude airspace where these aircraft operate has become imperative to ensure safety.

While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees air traffic control for traditional aircraft in designated airspaces, managing drones’ low-altitude traffic falls under the responsibility of individual operators. Drone pilots must maintain visual contact with their aircraft to prevent collisions.

Introducing a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system enhances safety by facilitating the exchange of flight details among UAS operators, offering a digital platform for flight planning, and ultimately enabling operators to conduct flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) while minimizing collision risks.

“The introduction of this vital capability continues Ohio’s tradition of innovation in the aviation community while prioritizing safety,” said Rich Fox, director of the Ohio UAS Center at ODOT. “As we collaborate with others at the newly opened National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence, we expect this to be the first of many industry-leading activities coming out of that state-of-the-art facility.”

After conducting various state-sponsored research initiatives to establish optimal methods for developing and implementing traffic management systems for unmanned aircraft in Ohio, CAL Analytics has introduced a system that offers interoperability, allowing users to participate by sharing and receiving flight information. As drone technology progresses, effective traffic management will be a critical facilitator for BVLOS operations. Currently, BVLOS operations necessitate special permission from the FAA, contingent upon meeting rigorous safety criteria.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to continue our collaboration with ODOT by deploying this discovery and synchronization services to fully realize this first-of-a-kind operational UTM capability throughout the state of Ohio,” said Dr. Sean Calhoun, managing director of CAL Analytics. “This realization is the result of a lot of industry development, including the essential work from The Ohio State University research team and sponsored research from the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN). We are looking forward to working with the various interested stakeholders throughout the state and the FAA to learn from this system and to start scaling UAS operations throughout Ohio.”

ODOT and the City of Hilliard will be the first organizations to enroll in the system and begin exchanging information. They plan to leverage UAS as a tool for everything from inspection and traffic monitoring to onsite situational awareness for first responders, such as police and fire department dispatches.

In the coming years, more advanced BVLOS operations will increase in Ohio, which means multiple operators may be flying in the same area to deliver medical supplies, perform emergency services, conduct infrastructure inspections, and even deliver commercial packages. Pilots must have situational awareness and be able to deconflict operations as needed strategically.