An indoor flying pavilion for students to test and fly drones will be built at a college in southwestern Ohio.
Sinclair Community College officials say the 40-foot high pavilion resembling a traditional aircraft hangar will be built adjacent to a building in Dayton that houses some of its education and training programs in unmanned aerial systems and aviation.
The indoor pavilion will allow students to fly drones without having to deal with weather issues or Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on flying them outdoors, said Andrew Shepherd, director of Sinclair's unmanned aerial systems program.
Congress has directed the FAA to integrate drones into civilian manned airspace by next fall. The agency currently allows unmanned aircraft to be flown only under controlled conditions.
Sinclair flies drones at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport and Wilmington Air Park under restricted flight conditions and has requests pending for FAA authorizations to fly more.
"We think it is really important for students to be able to experience the capabilities of flying," said Deb Norris, Sinclair's vice president for workforce development and corporate services.
Construction of the pavilion and renovation of the existing building's first floor are part of a $5 million project set for completion by early 2016.
Norris said the renovation will allow more UAS and aviation operations to be combined in one location, providing access to resources including aviation and flight simulators, avionics and engine labs and a wind tunnel.
"The idea is that students will be able to walk right out of that facility's first floor and into the pavilion, which will provide a hands-on learning environment," Shepherd said.
Sinclair student Drew Tait, of New York City, will finish his UAS certification before the pavilion's completion but believes it will provide other students with valuable opportunities.
"That should give them an edge going into the working world," said Tait, 22, who is planning to work for the Fire Department of New York. He believes first responders eventually will use drones for tasks including searching for victims, making his UAS training an asset.
An official with the Dayton Development Coalition, which is shaping strategies for the region's and Ohio's roles in the emerging drone industry, said the pavilion will be a powerful education and training tool.
"Nothing really compares to hands-on experience," said Chris Ford, vice president for defense programs with the regional economic development organization.
Norris said the school of around 22,000 students projects an estimated 3,000 aviation and UAS students will graduate within 10 years.