Ohio loses out as feds choose drone test sites

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON — The federal government rejected Ohio as a site to test unmanned aerial vehicles, delivering a major blow to officials who had argued that a combined Ohio-Indiana application and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton would have made an ideal location.

Although Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta told reporters in a conference call yesterday that the agency made its choices based in part on geographic and climate diversity, not one of the six sites is in the Midwest.

Instead, the FAA chose four Western sites — Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas — along with the Eastern states of New York and Virginia.

“Clearly, the Midwest has been left out,” said Michael Gessel, vice president of the Washington office of the Dayton Development Coalition, which helped organize Ohio’s application.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the FAA’s decision, saying Ohio is “a national leader in aerospace and would have been an ideal location for one of the sites.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was “disappointed with the FAA’s decision but am confident that the Miami Valley will continue its storied history as a leader in aerospace innovation.”

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said that, despite the FAA decision, “Ohio will continue to be a national leader in this new industry,” adding, “While we think Ohio certainly has the assets to be deserving of the FAA designation, our efforts have already resulted in valuable developments that will help us continue to shape the future of this exciting new industry and further the economic comeback of our state and region.”

Ohio and Indiana submitted a 6,000-page joint application last May, two years after Ohio lawmakers inserted language in an FAA bill calling for the establishment of the six sites.

When asked yesterday about the Dayton application, Huerta told Cox-TV’s Washington bureau that what “we were really looking for was combination of geography and climate.”

“We do have great plains and clear areas in the selection of the North Dakota site,” Huerta said. “We also have sites that provide a mix of agricultural and urban areas and other sites that take advantage of a lot of different airspace configurations.”

In addition, Huerta told Cox-TV, “We believe with the selection of the six sites, we actually got a good range of the climate and geographic climate that exist across the United States.”

During his earlier conference call with reporters, Huerta offered to privately brief those sites not selected. “This was a very robust competition,” he said. ‘We received many, many great proposals.”

Gessel said, “Until the FAA offers a debriefing, it is uncertain what criteria they used to make the final selection.”

Dispatch Reporter Joe Vardon contributed to this story.


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