People who want their Amazon.com orders delivered the same day might one day have research being conducted at the Ohio State University Airport to thank for finding ways civilian-operated drones can share air space with planes, David B. Williams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said last week during an appearance before the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

People who want their Amazon.com orders delivered the same day might one day have research being conducted at the Ohio State University Airport to thank for finding ways civilian-operated drones can share air space with planes, David B. Williams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said last week during an appearance before the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

In addition, Williams said, NetJets has committed $3 million to the Center for Aviation Studies at Don Scott Field on the Northwest Side to prepare the next generation of air traffic control, one not based on radio transmissions, but rather GPS from satellites.

That would enable all aircraft to have a different landing path and "spread out the noise envelope," the dean told his audience.

Williams, whose department oversees the airport, shared the stage with Northwest Civic Association Board of Trustees President John Ehlers for a discussion entitled "Modernization Taking Off at OSU Airport."

The program was scheduled largely because of the recent announcement that, after years of neglecting one of only three airports owned and operated by a major university, the OSU Board of Trustees was committing to keep Don Scott Field rather than sell it off for possible development and of a $10-million grant from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation to support the renovation and extension of the research and education facilities.

"Clearly, you're all lacking for good entertainment at lunchtime," Williams told the Metropolitan Club luncheon meeting in the Columbus Athletic Club to open his remarks.

Ehlers was on hand to address the concerns of Northwest Side residents regarding the airports.

Whereas safety and noise remain issues related to the airport, Ehlers said the chief worry of his constituents is the impact of the massive development that might have been made possible if university officials sold the property.

As far back as 1984, Williams said, university officials began considering ways to "monetize" the airport property.

More recently, he said, the trustees have decided it makes far more sense to continue to own and operate Don Scott Field rather than see it turned into a housing development.

"It would be a very large housing development," Ehlers said.

"The airport is roughly the size of Bexley."

But roads on three of the property's four sides, he pointed out, remain country roads as they were when the area was mostly orchards and farm fields.

Williams, who said Purdue and Texas A&M are the only other major research universities that own and operate airports, said the Knowlton Foundation gift of $10 million, to be doled out over several years, will enable OSU to increase the number of student pilots who can be trained at Don Scott by about 50 percent.

He said Boeing recently released a study showing that worldwide, 557,000 new pilots will be needed over the next 30 years.

"We intend to grow the program as much as is appropriate within the space we have," the dean said.

Economic development related to the OSU Airport, now that the trustees have made a commitment to the facility, is bound to be profound, according to Ehlers.

"The economic development part is really the engine, I think, that will drive prosperity in all of central Ohio, but Northwest Columbus in particular," Ehlers.

The OSU Airport offers a "unique opportunity to integrate with industry and the local community," Williams said.