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U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime Program Brings Innovators in Advanced Air Mobility to Dayton Region, Making Area Even More Attractive to Aerospace and Aviation Companies

By Elaine Bryant, Executive Vice President for Aerospace and Defense

Everyone knows that the Dayton Region in southwestern Ohio is a hotspot of innovation for aerospace and aviation companies. We have a long and impressive list of assets that make the area an ideal location for research, development, and commercialization of new technologies, products, and services. The list includes a new program launched earlier this year by the U.S. Air Force that gives companies yet another reason to choose Dayton.

In April 2020, the Air Force introduced Agility Prime, an initiative to develop the commercial market for advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft and create a robust domestic industry and supply chain to support their development and production. As a formal program specifically focused on AAM, Agility Prime can leverage military assets, including testing sites, safety certifications, and R&D opportunities to attract investors, build confidence in the technology, and support companies involved in the development of advanced air mobility aircraft.

Agility Prime also affords the Dayton Region a prime opportunity to attract additional contractors and other companies involved in the research, testing, manufacturing, and deployment of this new form of mobility.

Already, two major players in the industry have announced plans to establish a presence near Dayton. Joby Aviation, a California-based aerospace company that develops electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and BETA Technologies, a Vermont-based company that also develops eVTOL aircraft, will set up their simulators at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport by early 2021. They are expanding their operations in Ohio to be near the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which will play a major role in the Agility Prime program.  

We are confident that Joby and BETA’s move to Dayton will spur other companies to make the same decision. Their presence will add to the region’s already impressive value proposition, incentivizing companies involved in the emerging advanced air mobility industry as well as the aerospace and manufacturing resources to support this emerging field.

Here are the top 10 assets that make Dayton such an attractive location.

  1. Manufacturing strength – Aerospace companies know they can come to Dayton to research, develop, and test new aerospace technologies. However, they can stay and build here, too. Along with the array of R&D and testing taking place, Dayton also has a strong advanced manufacturing sector with plenty of experience building cars, airplanes, and other goods. We are well-positioned to build the flying cars of the future.

  1. Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) – The Air Force Research Laboratory at WPAFB partners with private industry in the research, development, and testing of new aerospace technologies, including advanced air mobility. There’s real value for companies and AFRL to be near each other.

  1. Air worthiness certification – Aircraft must be certified to take flight and carry cargo and passengers. The Air Force Air Worthiness Office at WPAFB will work with companies to accelerate the certification of advanced air mobility aircraft.

  1. Ohio Unmanned Aerial Systems Center (Ohio UAS Center) – The Ohio UAS Center, located at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, serves as the state's one-stop shop for unmanned aircraft and advanced aviation technologies. Operating as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) “Drive Ohio” initiative, the Ohio UAS Center manages all unmanned aircraft operations for ODOT and oversees initiatives and research projects focusing on the integration of unmanned and autonomous aircraft into the National Airspace System.

  1. SkyVision – Located at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, SkyVision is a beyond-visual-line-of-sight range operating in partnership with AFRL and the state of Ohio. The Federal Aviation Administration granted AFRL a certificate of authorization to fly and test unmanned aircraft and other advanced aerospace technologies beyond-visual-line-of sight within a 200-square-mile airspace around the airport.

  1. Collaborative partners – The Dayton Region has private companies, academic institutions, and government and military partners eager to collaborate in the research, development, and commercialization of new aerospace technologies, including advanced air mobility aircraft.

  1. Statewide ecosystem – While Dayton is the aerospace capital of Ohio, the entire state has much to offer. In fact, in its 2020 ranking of the best states for aerospace development, PricewaterhouseCooper stated, “Ohio is the second most attractive state for aerospace and aircraft developers thanks, in part, to the state’s corporate tax structure, healthy economy, and strong industry presence”. In addition, Ohio is home to 550 aerospace and aviation organizations, many of them located in or near Dayton, including WPAFB, the Ohio UAS Center in Springfield, and many aircraft engine and parts makers.

  1. Workforce – The Dayton Region employs thousands of workers in aerospace related jobs. GE Aviation alone has 1,300 employees and three facilities in the area. Dayton has a high concentration of engineers and advanced STEM degree holders, as well as automotive and other manufacturing workers. More than 38,000 Ohioans work in the aerospace industry.

  1. Ohio’s smart mobility initiatives – Ohio offers unparalleled resources for companies engaged in the research, development, testing, use, and commercialization of smart mobility solutions. Recognizing that unmanned aircraft systems, advanced air mobility aircraft, and autonomous/connected vehicles are parallel technologies, Ohio can leverage resources from all sectors to make smarter decisions and avoid duplicative efforts.
  2. Automotive industry – Ohio’s automotive industry is one of the strongest in the country. We boast auto manufacturers, an industry workforce exceeding 100,000, and a robust supply chain offering access to hundreds of customers and suppliers. Companies engaged in the development of advanced air mobility aircraft can leverage these automotive assets for their own benefit.

With the Air Force now working to accelerate and commercialize the development of advanced air mobility aircraft, there’s a good chance we’ll be using flying cars within a few years. Until then, so much of the research, development, testing, and manufacturing for the industry will happen in and around Dayton. We have always been a key destination for traditional aerospace and automotive companies, but now, we are positioned to be the hub of innovation in urban air mobility and autonomous aviation systems as well. I invite you to come and check us out!


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