OARnet link to drone research center benefits new industry, higher education

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Dec 12, 2017) — 

The state’s efforts to advance drone technologies are about to get a major broadband boost thanks to an agreement completed last week (Dec. 5) with OARnet.

The Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Center in Springfield soon will be connected to OARnet’s statewide, 100 gigabit-per-second network backbone to support the state’s drone testing and data collection efforts. Ohio is currently working to develop a ground-based “sense-and avoid-system” for unmanned aircraft to empower drone operators, for the first time anywhere in the nation, to fly unmanned aircraft beyond their line of sight.

The new agreement will provide network connections to the city of Springfield, along with giving existing OARnet members, such as Wright State and Miami Universities, added resiliency, better redundancy and greatly increased bandwidth.

Schematic of new fiber project to connect the Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aerial System Center and the city of Springfield to OARnet.

The project also will provide the opportunity to connect the UAS site at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport to UAS offices in Calamityville, Ohio, as well as to provide important links to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton and NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The OARnet connections also will link the UAS center to Ohio’s colleges and universities, K-12 schools, medical centers, public broadcasting stations, and state and local government offices.

 “Providing network connectivity to the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center through OARnet is truly a win-win scenario,” said John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, which oversees OARnet through the Ohio Technology Consortium. “Here, we are leveraging the powerful reach of OARnet’s statewide network to serve economic development, as well as research and education.”

The Indiana Fiber Network and Springfield are providing OARnet with access to “dark fiber” within their networks to complete a vital section of this project, with only about a mile of required new fiber installation. The current connections in those areas are not fiber-based and therefore are only capable of speeds up to ten gigabits-per-second. The construction and installation work should be completed by early summer.

“This is a very positive development for the entire region,” said Paul Schopis, OARnet’s interim executive director. “And, it’s a great example of what OARnet does. We leverage a lot of assets to create a whole cloth that benefits all involved, much more so than they could have done on their own.”

The Ohio-Indiana UAS Center was created in 2013 to “advance the commercialization of technology through research, design, testing, and evaluation and the subsequent certification of systems or system components” and “support the UAS community in research and development, facilitating safe integration into the National Airspace System.”

“Gaining connectivity to OARnet's network adds an additional economic-development tool to help attract and support existing businesses and researchers engaged in the development of unmanned aerial systems and their many sub-components,” said Tom Franzen, Springfield’s assistant city manager and director of economic development.

Further development of the technology could greatly benefit various Ohio industries, in areas such as precision agriculture, project surveying, infrastructure inspection, project monitoring, environmental survey, resource survey, invasive species detection, corrections facility security, and police and firefighting support. The work underway at the UAS center is intended to give Ohio a major advantage as unmanned aircraft and drones become the basis for new industries and economic growth.