Flash Forward

The Future of Aviation

There was a time when small passenger air vehicles, or sky taxis, as depicted in the popular 1962 cartoon show The Jetsons, were a concept far in the future. However, in 2023 Kent State is taking a leading role in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), a system of highly automated electric vehicles that transport people or cargo with an emphasis on safety and sustainability.

The College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE) is at the forefront of this emerging technology that will integrate autonomous aircraft such as sky taxis and delivery drones into the national airspace and the global economy.

Electric passenger drone
Electric passenger drone

CAE has proposed creating the Center for Advanced Air Mobility, which will foster research, education and collaboration among a multidisciplinary community of faculty, staff and students, as well as partners in government, academia and industry. The proposal, which has gone before the Faculty Senate and the Education Policy Committee, goes before the Board of Trustees on June 28.

“Initially, CAE will be operating the center from the Kent Campus,” says Christina Bloebaum, PhD, dean of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering. “Once we have funding, we will build a dedicated facility at the Kent State University Airport, where companies can test their technology, their designs and capabilities in flight.”

Already, areas at the airport are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying this type of aircraft, she says. The FAA is working with universities and companies to develop policies for the aircraft.

“This is just formalizing what we already have here, which is incredibly extensive,” Bloebaum says. The college can draw on faculty expertise, related curriculum and an entire fleet of drones and aircraft, she says. The funding will initially come from CAE, with money generated from grants, fee for service, possible partnerships, events and other future sources.

Leading the way on AAM

Bloebaum was on the steering committee that developed the state’s AAM strategy, and she is the regional academic representative on the Jobs Ohio advisory committee, as the state leads the way in AAM development.

On May 2, Kent State hosted a conference, “Reaching New Heights in Advanced Air Mobility,” in partnership with Manufacturing Works, Team NEO, NEOFIX (Northeast Ohio Flight Information Exchange) and the Smart Manufacturing Cluster of Northeast Ohio. The full-day event featured plenary sessions and breakouts with an emphasis on supply chain opportunities. The day before, conference attendees were invited to view live drone demonstrations at Kent State’s airport.

Soon, CAE students will have the tools to meet the new demands that sky taxis and delivery drones will place on the national airspace.

Two of the five new Bachelor of Science degree programs recently approved by Kent State’s Board of Trustees are related to this emerging sector. Air Traffic and Airspace Management (one of the first degree programs of its kind in the country) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Operations will teach students the skills needed to manage an airspace filled with drones, flying taxis, personal aircraft and large commercial aircraft.

“This is being defined as the democratization of aviation because it becomes much more affordable for people to access aviation,” Bloebaum says. “They do not have to buy an airplane. There are now other alternatives.”

—April McClellan-Copeland


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 03:39 PM
UPDATED: Monday, April 15, 2024 08:49 PM