BY JAMEY D. JACOB
Much of the research and development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and unmanned air vehicles (UAV), as well as the public’s focus on them, has centered on military and security surveillance applications. At Oklahoma State University, we’re equally excited about applications that address commercial and public safety needs, such as agriculture, wildfire monitoring and early weather warning systems.
Oklahoma State has the nation’s only graduate UAS program. OSU has a track record of placing students in aerospace industry careers and accelerating promising technologies. This state provides an ideal setting, climate and scholastic commitment to advance unmanned aircraft technology.
Developing technology at OSU will result in remotely piloted sensor platforms launched into storm cells to help predict and track tornadoes. Pre-emptive warnings could occur hours — not minutes — before disaster strikes. Also on the horizon are UAVs for use by first responders following natural disasters such as tornadoes and wildfires.
The aerospace industry accounts for more than 150,000 Oklahoma jobs supported by 500 aerospace and defense-related companies. The economic impact alone exceeds $12 billion per year. In 2012, Oklahoma exports included more than $6.6 billion in aerospace-related products. New applications are pushing the envelope even further.
This year, the Department of Homeland Security selected the Oklahoma Test Center-Unmanned Systems facility near Elgin for its Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety program. Operated by OSU’s University Multispectral Laboratories, it’s one of few locations where flight tests can be done without FAA authorization, ensuring faster results and evaluations. UML also works with OSU on innovative airframes, control systems and quiet engines.