Indiana State officials plan unmanned systems, Homeland Security centers

Indiana State University officials are hopeful that a recent informational meeting will be an integral step in developing a partnership with emergency responders.

ISU officials on Friday met with local and state leaders to introduce them to two centers that are being established. Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Joe Wainscott, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, were among the more than 20 people in attendance to learn more about the Center for Unmanned Systems and the Center for Crisis Leadership and Homeland Security.

“The number one aspect is that we can provide an asset for first responders, public safety, individuals like those in the police force, fire department or any other first responders that would be involved in any kind of a crisis,” said Richard Baker, assistant professor in aviation technology. He is also the coordinator of the unmanned systems program and director for the Center for Crisis Leadership and Homeland Security.

With the Center for Crisis Leadership and Homeland Security, ISU officials hope to provide crisis management training and certification programs, Baker said. The Center for Unmanned Systems will provide technological equipment, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, to help emergency responders, he added.

The informational meeting included a synopsis of the two centers at ISU, along with future plans of academic coursework to be offered. Baker also led meeting attendees on a tour of facilities where students will do their work, and he demonstrated several unmanned vehicles and showed movies demonstrating several others owned by ISU.

Terre Haute’s Bennett realized different ways that unmanned vehicles could potentially be used in crisis situations. He learned more about Indiana State’s plans for developing the centers during the presentation.

“So it’s been very encouraging, very enlightening and very exciting,” Bennett said.

At various points during the presentation, meeting attendees asked Baker questions about several of ISU’s different unmanned vehicles. The vehicles, which range in cost from $120 to $30,000, can utilize additional equipment, such as cameras that can provide streaming video and infrared images, to help emergency responders. The vehicles were purchased through grants, Baker said.

Homeland Security officials will discuss what they learned at the meeting with ISU, Wainscott said. He also said that the agency has a strong history of partnering with state universities in different ways.

“We like to try to take advantage of their strengths…,” Wainscott added.

ISU students have already started to respond to the new initiatives. This fall, ISU began offering a minor in unmanned aerial vehicles. Harry Minniear, chair of ISU’s aviation technology department, planned to offer a class about unmanned systems to 24 students. He ultimately added a second session to accommodate the nearly 50 students interested in the course.

“Not many universities are doing anything with this,” Minniear said. “We wanted to be one of the first in the country to explore the unmanned systems.”

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