Published on
Apr 12, 2024

By Dr. Edie Williams, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Communications, and New Business at Parallax Advanced Research

Ohio has a long and rich history in aerospace. The first wave ushered in the birth of aviation with the Wright Brothers. The second wave was space exploration, with NASA Glenn leading the way. The third wave, called advanced air mobility (AAM), is now being championed in Ohio with innovations in digitization, design, and manufacturing of AAM vehicles and new concepts for air traffic management to support this new aerial transportation system.  

AAM is represented as the development and operation of airborne vehicles and their safe integration into the national airspace system. To a great degree, this national initiative is being led by organizations based here or with operations in Ohio.  

Importantly, the “how” of AAM leadership in Ohio is by doing what we have always done: innovate and collaborate. These capabilities are helping to bring about another transformational step in aerospace that will impact the world and carry forth the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Judith Resnik, Jerrie Mock, and others. Ohio is once again at the forefront of research, innovation, policy development, and education for AAM.  

Starting roughly a decade ago, when drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were being introduced for various applications, other developments were taking place that added to the initiative. Of necessity, AAM required physical infrastructure, along with an array of software for guidance, collision avoidance, and other operational refinements. At the forefront of those advancements is the involvement of Parallax Advanced Research through its programs and affiliate, the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI), which are helping the AAM market grow in two significant ways:

First, we have research capabilities, most notably in autonomy and human-machine teaming, developed and evaluated through our U.S. Air Force and NASA contracts. We apply the Science of Intelligent Teaming™, focused on the intelligent teaming of humans and machines, involving artificial intelligence, human factors research, and advanced autonomous systems crucial to unmanned aerial systems (UASs) operations. These technologies and our experience developing and operating them will lead to the safe integration of new aerial vehicles into the national airspace system.

Second, the programs that we manage, like the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN), the Great Lakes Mission Acceleration Center (MAC), the OnRamp Hub: Ohio, and the Center for Advanced Air Mobility Initiative (CAAM-I), have given us unique insight into cutting edge technologies in Ohio and across the region that can fulfill national defense needs and the needs of the AAM industry. Through testing and demonstrating these technologies in collaboration with our partners in academia, industry, and the government, we can provide the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NASA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and other government clients with critical safety insights and data that will ultimately enable broad AAM market development and job growth. Furthermore, we offer technology commercialization expertise and support to small businesses advancing AAM. For example, OFRN-funded projects have resulted in 13 intellectual property patents, which we are helping to bring to market for exploitation.

In addition to our deep roots in autonomous operations, Parallax and its affiliate, OAI, are focused on facilitation and collaboration. Parallax and OAI facilitate government, academia, and industry relationships and match collaborative teams– the human-to-human component of the Science of Intelligent Teaming™ – that support the goal of growing the hardware and software infrastructure needed to advance national interests in AAM. We’ve learned through experience that fostering human-to-human connections is crucial for advancing AAM technology innovation and developing its safe and trusted infrastructure. For example, OFRN has competitively allocated over $61.7 million across five project rounds, resulting in 35 research projects led by industry-academic collaborative teams throughout Ohio. The OFRN collaborators include 22 colleges and universities and 106 businesses throughout Ohio.  

Moreover, there are several universities, organizations, and companies in Ohio that are doing the research and the innovation to support AAM throughout Ohio and across the U.S. Some of those entities include companies that the OFRN program funded and are now leading in the crucial area of low altitude airspace management, including Cal Analytics, Flightprofiler, Converge Technologies, to name a few. Here are some links to success stories that provide examples of our network’s progress in AAM:  

Another example of the efficacy of our facilitating collaborations across industry, academia, and government is Kent State University's development of a lightweight, high-energy-density onboard power source for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, achieved through an OFRN-funded project. The hybrid fuel cell battery/capacitor showcased through a 12-hour lab demonstration extends flight time and enhances payload capabilities for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Led by Dr. Yanhai Du, the project involved collaboration among multiple institutions and industry partners, including the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA Glenn Research Center. With OFRN's financial support and assistance connecting with federal agencies, Kent State University overcame technological challenges and is now poised for further advancements and commercialization efforts. This success underscores the effectiveness of collaborative research initiatives in driving innovation and addressing critical needs, with potential applications ranging from military operations to commercial services like package delivery and emergency response.

Another example of our success in facilitating collaborations across industry, academia, and government is the impact of OAI’s CAAM-I grant in accelerating small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) sector. Over 65 companies, with over 70% being minority, women, and/or veteran-owned, have benefited from CAAMI's initiatives. Notable successes include UAVistas securing $50,000 funding, Aampersand navigating funding opportunities for drone airspace navigation, The Technology House accessing capital support for product development, and Allegro Tech accelerating technological advancements through U.S. Air Force funding.  

Moreover, among the government-industry-academia sectors, extraordinary expertise exists based on years of study, research, and mission-tested technologies that have and will continue contributing to all facets of AAM. By bringing these capabilities together in a strategic and planned way, we leverage the best that each sector has to offer. This is, of course, no small feat, but one that Parallax and OAI are well positioned to undertake and lead on behalf of Ohio. Based on our working network of research universities, our deep bench of researchers and scientists, and our experienced team of former military, industry, and policy experts, we have what it takes to move AAM forward. An example of our recent success collaborating with our government clients on policy advocacy and development for the AAM industry is our instrumental role in partnering with NASA and the State of Ohio to develop the Advanced Air Mobility Community Integration Considerations Playbook. This comprehensive resource underscores our commitment to facilitating community understanding regarding AAM's multifaceted challenges and opportunities.

Of course, trying to organize many diverse groups with unique experiences and backgrounds can present challenges. We answer these challenges by doubling down on collaboration and facilitating relationships between academia, industry, and government, which we’ve been doing for a long time and with great success. We were involved early on with the U.S. Air Force Agility Prime campaign, targeted toward the accelerated development of AAM to support the U.S. Air Force vision of both military and commercial superiority with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. Through Parallax’s data analytics capabilities, our multi-sector network, and strategic communications capabilities, we helped AFWERX (a community of Air Force innovators who strive to connect Airmen to solutions across the force) grow its network across several challenge events in just a matter of months.    

There are also several challenges in combining or leveraging both commercial and military capabilities or expertise for dual-use applications. Certainly, security is at the top of the list. With a firm understanding of managing secured communications and information, Parallax has also been a leader in these areas. Those processes and protocols are inherent in everything we do. For example, we have a dedicated team of engineers who exclusively work on building and managing a secure software infrastructure and network that enables the safe operation of multiple drones and UAVs in the airspace. Parallax’s Mobile Testing Evaluation Center (MTEC) is an advanced computer-equipped mobile lab that travels throughout the United States to conduct simulated and live UAS flight tests, from software to sensors. Research objectives supported by MTEC include developing and testing vehicle agnostic automation technology for multi-UAS operations supervised by a single operator. MTEC was built in 2012 to meet the needs of the Air Force Research Laboratory projects that Parallax supports.  

The future of AAM depends on Ohio. As the Third Wave, the technologies and collaborative framework that Ohio possesses, and which Parallax and OAI have helped grow and empower by the Science of Intelligent Teaming™, in collaboration with our industry, academia, and government partners, epitomizes a bold vision for the future of aviation transportation. Ohio is well positioned with Parallax and OAI's concerted efforts to shape this vision and underscores our shared commitment to pioneering innovation and driving meaningful change in the industry. Together, through innovative research and strategic partnerships, we stand at the forefront of ushering in the next wave of transformative progress, poised to revolutionize aviation transportation as we know it.


About Parallax Advanced Research

Parallax Advanced Research is a 501(c)(3) private nonprofit research institute that tackles global challenges through strategic partnerships with government, industry, and academia. It accelerates innovation, addresses critical global issues, and develops groundbreaking ideas with its partners. With offices in Ohio and Virginia, Parallax aims to deliver new solutions and speed them to market. In 2023, Parallax and the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) formed a collaborative affiliation to drive innovation and technological advancements in Ohio and for the Nation. OAI plays a pivotal role in advancing the aerospace industry in Ohio and the nation by fostering collaborations between universities, aerospace industries, and government organizations and managing aerospace research, education, and workforce development projects. More information about both organizations can be found at the Parallax and OAI websites.