Oklahoma to benefit from commercial UAS sector boom


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, May 2013 – The message was loud and clear at the UAS Summit organized by The Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma (USA-OK) on March 26, 2013 in Norman, OK:

Once UAS are integrated within the U.S. National Airspace, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International expects that the commercial UAS industry will grow exponentially. Already fueled by an increasing portfolio of applications for the technology, the UAS industry is booming. 

The UAS Summit, which covered a diverse set of subjects and topics including the use of UAS for agriculture, advanced weather monitoring and research, along with law enforcement and military applications of UAS technology; brought to light some of the emerging commercial applications of UAS. These include:

  • Biomimicry – embedding biologically inspired remote systems in nature to observe animal behavior and migration patterns;
  • General Security – for site security
  • Radar Research – testing the limits of radar in detection
  • Climatologically – weather and atmospheric sciences
  • Public Safety – security at large public events and gatherings
  • Surveillance – for policing for local law enforcement and border control agencies
  • Communication – to extend communication range and bandwidth
  • Aeronautics – to optimize and innovate flight dynamics and design
  • Materials – testing of new materials and composites
  • Propulsion – testing of new propulsion design and technologies
  • Power – battery and power source technologies
  • Acoustics – noise control, transmission and acoustic technology
  • Cyber Security – wireless security
  • Oil & Gas – scanning of pipelines for damage and leaks as well as exploration
  • Sensors – carrying sensor technology for monitoring and testing weather events, water management, data gathering
  • Crop Management – testing and monitoring and crop dusting/maintenance
  • Forestry – monitoring wildfires and potential hazards
  • Traffic – monitoring and optimization of roadways and traffic patterns
  • Journalism – the technology enables reporters to get closer to their story
  • Search and Rescue
  • Monitoring drought and water patterns
  • Feature film making

AUVSI within its March 13, 2013 study found that the precision agriculture industry (i.e.: crop management) is expected to be the largest commercial market for UAS technology once UAS are integrated within the U.S. national airspace system (NAS). The study also stated that once this integration takes place the unmanned aircraft industry is poised, within the first couple of years, to create more than 70,000 new American jobs.

Oklahoma today is at the epicenter of innovation in UAS technology and applications.  Oklahoma’s aerospace industry and infrastructure, including restricted airspace, companies already developing UAS technology and research institutions, strongly positions the state to meet the future UAS needs of the agriculture and other commercial industries.

Globally recognized as an aerospace pioneer state, Oklahoma has rapidly become the “fly to” state for Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation, Training and Education (RDTET&E) of commercial and military Unmanned Aerial Systems; with its central location, ideal terrain, business incentives, testing and development capabilities, and training and education programs, according to Michael Toscano, President & CEO of AUVSI.

Already the state’s UAS infrastructure is meeting the development, application and operation needs of the fast-emerging commercial UAS industry related to precision agriculture, exploration of natural resources, crop and herd monitoring and management, forestry, meteorology, first response, law enforcement, and border patrol:

  • University of Oklahoma researchers are utilizing UAS platforms for weather and radar-related research and using UAS-based technology for applications that range from lower atmospheric monitoring and boundary layer studies to the development of innovative new sense-and–avoid technologies.  The National Weather Center and OU’s new Radar Innovations Laboratory (scheduled for completion in 2013) will continue to play important roles in OU’s UAS-based applications research.
  • In June 2012, Oklahoma was selected by the US Dept. of Homeland Security as their test site for their new program “Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety” a program to test, then certify small UAS for use by first responders across the US. DHS officials are evaluating roughly 50 companies’ SUAS platforms and technologies in Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma has a formal agreement with the FAA and the U.S. Air Force to research and facilitate the future use of UAS in support of the FAA testing electronic navigational systems worldwide.
  • Award of multi-year contract with the National Guard to advance the UAS training capabilities at Camp Gruber, OK, a U.S. Army 33,000-acre training facility in eastern Oklahoma.
  • University of Oklahoma researchers developed an unmanned mini-helicopter with a 6-foot rotary wingspan as part of a $12 million, five-year project to create a security system for our nation’s 360 ports; it was flown and demonstrated at Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa – the largest inland port in the U.S.
  • First response professionals in Oklahoma rely on UAS called Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) to assist with a variety of events, including wildfires, floods, train derailment, oil and gas mishaps, and various natural disasters.

Oklahoma’s top industries – including agriculture and oil and gas – are expected to be among the biggest end users of UAS technology.  UAS will allow farmers to more efficiently monitor crops and distribute pesticides, which could help improve efficiency among the state’s 86,000 farms and maintain the state’s position as a national leader in wheat production. UAS will also enable oil and gas companies to more efficiently survey pipelines, drilling rigs and other critical infrastructure.

“UAS represents one of the fastest-growing segments of the aerospace industry, which already is an important part of the Oklahoma economy,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. “We are taking the steps necessary to create an environment conducive to job creation and investment that also positions Oklahoma as a national leader in the advancement of UAS technology.

Governor Fallin along with Secretary of Science and Innovation, Stephen McKeever will be leading a delegation to this year’s Paris Airshow, taking place outside of Paris June 17-23, 2013, to showcase the state’s UAS assets and capabilities.