Unmanned Planes Taking Off In Wilmington,Ohio
WILMINGTON, Ohio - More planes are taking off from the little-used Wilmington Air Park, but those planes don't have pilots.
The aircraft are Air Force UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
The planes don't look much different than a toy plane you can buy at the local hobby shop.
But it's what they can carry, and where, that has the Air Force interested in more testing.
"What's different about them is the sensors that are attached to them, that are picking up a lot of data from the ground, from other things, and it's that data that they're really interested in," said Kevin Carver, Executive Director of the Clinton County Port Authority.
The Wilmington Air Park approached the Air Force two years ago about testing UAVs in Wilmington.
The FAA recently approved the Air Force to fly five of the UAVs from the airport.
They are piloted by licensed pilots and are limited by the FAA to fly no higher than 2,500 feet.
Carver says projections for growth in the UAV industry range from $5 billion to $15 billion over the next few years.
He hopes the Wilmington Air Park is part of that growth.
"Long term our goal is to get those same contractors and maybe even the Federal Government involved in the manufacturing of UAVs here at the Wilmington Air Park,"
The air park and the community were devastated when DHL announced it was cutting thousands of jobs in 2008.
At its peak DHL employed 9,000 people, now only 750 people work at the air park.
The future of UAVs is just part of the plan to revitalize the 1,500 acre facility.
"We're interested in aerospace firms, we're interested in manufacturing firms, we're also starting to pursue international air cargo," said Carver.
The Wilmington Air Park, along with other organizations in the state, will soon be making a pitch to the FAA to make the air park one of six national test sites for the Department of Defense and NASA.
They hope to know the result of that pitch by the end of the year.