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County explores non-defense use of drones

The Greene County Community Improvement Corporation and the City of Xenia will host a forum on non-defense uses for unmanned aerial systems today at a unused county site on Union Road .

The by invitation only event is part of an effort to diversify the economy within the county and market the 163.5 acre site the county is selling for $25,000 per acre.

Individuals from the development, education and research fields will give presentations during the hour and a half forum.They will discuss various topics including agricultural and public safety applications for the unmanned systems or drones.

Wright-Patterson Air Force base, the state’s largest employer, along with multiple defense contractors are located in the county, however, officials say they are looking to build the local economy and attract other types of businesses.

“We wanted to have a topic that’s interesting and important, but hasn’t been talked about a lot, David Kell, the Greene County Development Department director said. “There are other opportunities within UAS that are important and it’s important for us to focus on areas outside of defense.

Agribusiness represents a huge market for UAS applications, said Kim Frazier, the Dayton Development Coalition executive director of strategic analytics and evaluation.

“With precision agriculture, farmers are targeting their uses of fertilizers and pesticides to reduce costs and increase yields,” Frazier said. “By using UAS to monitor crops, farmers can have real-time data to respond to the needs in their fields.”

The Union Road location in Xenia is the former home of two orphanages for military children — the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and the Ohio Veterans’ Children’s Home, said Steve Brodsky, the Xenia development director.

“The property is zoned industrial, which creates flexibility in use for businesses and investors in a range of industry sectors,” Kell said, the Greene County Development Department director. “Companies specializing in research and development, light and heavy manufacturing, and distribution have shown interest in the property.”

The county bought the land from the state several years ago and now the county wants to sell the land.

“The intention all along was to develop it as an industrial or commerce park,” Brodsky said. “This (forum) is an effort to market it to development professionals.”

The infrastructure for all utilities is in place, he added.

“I think when they look at the larger market, this is well price land, excellent access and it’s in a competitive business environment,” Brodsky said.

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