Air Force research into flying cars is taking root in the Dayton-Springfield area in a new way, with a groundbreaking for an “advanced urban air mobility technology simulator” facility set for Thursday at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
Designed to be used by BETA Technologies and Joby Aviation, two pioneer businesses in the field of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, the facility will speed the Air Force’s deepening exploration of the vehicles, a project called “Agility Prime.”
The Air Force recently launched the $35 million program, seeking to create and speed a commercial market for advanced air mobility aircraft while creating a supply chain to support production of the cars, sometimes called “air taxis,” the Air Force Research Lab said in an announcement on the groundbreaking.
Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), will participate in the groundbreaking, as will Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted and JobsOhio President JP Nauseef.
Officials from AFRL, Dayton Development Coalition, JobsOhio, the city of Springfield, BETA Technologies, and Joby Aviation are also expected to be on hand at the event.
BETA and Joby are “leaders in advanced air mobility vehicles, commonly known as air taxis,” AFRL said. “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.”
Over the years, Springfield has become increasingly important to Air Force research. Its airspace has also been approved for testing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities for unmanned aircraft or drones above the airport.
“The Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport is proud to be part of the ecosystem of unmanned aerial systems research and testing in Ohio,” city of Springfield’s Assistant City Manager Tom Franzen said in AFRL’s release.
“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,” AFRL Commander 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 advanced urban air mobility simulator facility and charging stations mark the beginning of a new era for Springfield and Ohio,” said Jeff Hoagland, coalition 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.”
The facility will exist for both Joby Aviation and BETA Technologies. Both companies are working on development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The groundbreaking event will be part of “AFWERX Accelerate,” a weeklong exploration of how AFRL is pursuing technological change.
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