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Ohio to Test Drones as Traffic Monitors Along 'Smart Corridor'

Could the solution to traffic congestion on the ground come from above?

Ohio's "33 Smart Mobility Corridor" is being set up to "to competitively develop, test, and implement smart mobility practices throughout the state." The corridor "winds through both urban and rural areas and is exposed to all four seasons, sees 50,000 cars a day and is an ideal proving ground for smart and autonomous vehicle technologies."

The Ohio State University reports that the testing ground is now "getting even smarter under recently announced plans to study the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, to monitor traffic and roadway conditions from the air along the corridor."

One small problem: the sky has a lot of traffic too. The study, being conducted by DriveOhio's UAS Center, will be looking at ways to "safely fit these aircraft into an already congested airspace."

Ohio State Aerospace Research Center Director Jim Gregory says that he and his coworkers are "excited to develop an unmanned traffic management system for Ohio, which will enable safe flight of drones and personal air vehicles beyond the line of sight of the operator,” which presently isn't allowed by FAA regulations. The rules now require that UAS operators be able to see the drones. As the article says, these regulations "significantly curtail the usefulness of the range of applications that industry, academia, and public entities such as ODOT can envision."

The drones will fly at low-altitude, and provide a wealth of data to researchers on "traffic and incident response" from the corridor.