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KOSU purchases drone for airport operations

Ohio State Airport staff identified the need to integrate an unmanned aerial system (UAS) into airport operations about a year ago. Since then, Dale Gelter, assistant airport director/airport operations, moved the UAS program from a board room idea to one of the first FAA 139 Certificated airports in the country to have a fully operational UAS program in less than a year.

A UAS, or drone, is a new tool that provides many unique advantages to perform a wide array of tasks more efficiently and with greater capability. The uses for a fully airspace integrated UAS program for airport operations are endless and only limited by imagination. The airport now has multiple FAA Part 107 UAS licensed pilots, a FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in controlled airspace, a waiver for nighttime ops, and a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the ATCT for how they will conduct UAS missions.

The first step in the process was to identify the goals and select a drone, and this was no easy task. The airport UAS team met with officials at the Ohio / Indiana UAS Center in Springfield, Ohio to learn more about the drones they have been testing to better understand the capabilities that would be required to complete the intended missions of the KOSU program. After many demonstrations and reviews, airport staff decided that the DJI Matrice 210 would be the most capable drone to carry out the airport missions.

Next was the most difficult stage:  FAA authorization.  Gelter worked with FAA and Midwest ATC personnel to develop training standards, documentation, and procedures to provide a safe integration of UAS and manned aircraft to receive the coveted FAA COA and LOA.

Along with the rest of the UAS team, the airport has begun utilizing the drone on a regular basis. Some of the missions they have already completed are:

  • Aerial photography for Don Scott Trot 5K, terminal construction, and Army parachute jumps
  • Airport rescue fire fighting live burn thermal imagery and video for training
  • Ramp, taxiway and runway pavement inspections
  • Perimeter fence inspections
  • Executing the KOSU Wildlife Hazard Management Plan
  • Building and hangar inspections