AFRL to break ground on “flying car” training facility


SPRINGFIELD — Officials from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and several Dayton area agencies will break ground on a facility that may pave the Air Force’s future in flying cars.

Representatives from the AFRL, Dayton Development Coalition, JobsOhio, City of Springfield, BETA Technologies, and Joby Aviation will participate at a groundbreaking event for a new “advanced urban air mobility technology simulator” facility at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.

Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, AFRL commander, will participate in the groundbreaking on Dec. 10 at 12:30 p.m. Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and JobsOhio President JP Nauseef will also be in attendance.

The training facility is produced by companies BETA Technologies and Joby Aviation, both of whom are leaders in advanced air mobility vehicles, commonly known as “air taxis,” or more candidly, flying cars.

“The technology is anticipated to revolutionize transportation and spur the growth of a new industry. The simulators allow pilots to gain experience in a controlled environment,” the AFRL said in an announcement.

The impetus for this project is a program called Agility Prime. The Air Force recently launched this non-traditional program, worth $35 million, to accelerate the commercial market for advanced air mobility aircraft. The program also seeks to create a robust domestic industry and supply chain to support their development and production.

“Agility Prime is an exciting opportunity for the Air Force to engage with industry and learn about the difficult task of developing electric air taxis,” Pringle said. “It also paves the way for AFRL and the Ohio Community to advance the science and better understand an innovative capability with both military and commercial benefits.”

The move comes as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper announced AFWERX was moved under the umbrella of AFRL to better facilitate collaboration with industry partners.

“The advanced urban air mobility simulator facility and charging stations mark the beginning of a new era for Springfield and Ohio,” said Jeff Hoagland, DDC president and CEO. “As we look to the skies for new ways to travel, Ohio will once again be on the leading edge of aerospace research and development. We hope the innovators of advanced air mobility systems will join Joby and BETA in Springfield to leverage our region’s rich ecosystem for aerospace research, testing, and manufacturing.”

Springfield’s airspace has been approved for testing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities for unmanned aircraft. In addition, it also conducts pioneering work into how to integrate unmanned systems into National Airspace System, a critical aspect of developing air taxi technology.

“The Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport is proud to be part of the ecosystem of unmanned aerial systems research and testing in Ohio,” Springfield Assistant City Manager Tom Franzen said in the announcement.

Ohio’s work in developing research capabilities for unmanned aerial systems makes it an ideal place for Agility Prime contractors to establish operations. Advanced technology to support testing, research and manufacturing, a strong network of collaborative partners, and proximity to leading institutions and talented workforce combine to create a strong ecosystem to support air taxis.

By London Bishop

[email protected]

Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.

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