Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Test Site? No Problem: Oklahoma Sees Promise in Unmanned Aircraft

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Test Site? No Problem: Oklahoma Sees Promise in Unmanned Aircraft

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma is still keeping pace with - if not soaring past - other regions trying to carve a niche in the unmanned aerial systems and drone industry despite missing out on a Federal Aviation Administration test site designation, Jamey Jacob said.

"Where our strength is really coming from is in our public- private partnerships," said Jacob, a professor of aerospace engineering at Oklahoma State University. "We're seeing a lot of positive interaction between state government, academic institutions and a growing local industry under very proactive initiatives on a steady pace."

The Stillwater university will hold a national conference for the unmanned aerial systems industry Wednesday and Thursday. The event will provide a forum for entrepreneurs, investors and researchers to share best practices and technology. Demand worldwide for remote- controlled systems is projected to top $15 billion over the next 10 years, with applications ranging from crop monitoring to testing shipping routes, officials said.

Companies and agencies scheduled to attend include Boeing, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and NASA's Johnson Space Center and Goddard Space Flight Center. Topics include technology acquisition, intellectual property licensing and forming alliances with research institutions.

OSU was the first four-year university to offer graduate-level degrees specific to UAS engineering, according to the Aerospace Manufacturing & Design industry magazine. That academic push is already paying off, said Jacob, who has worked on projects ranging from Mars exploration to terrestrial tornado study. Some of his students were recently recognized by the Department of Homeland Security in a nationwide small UAS competition.

But at the end of 2014, Oklahoma received news that the state had not been chosen as a UAS test site, one of only a few areas where the FAA is legally allowing drone flight as regulations are being developed. A draft of those rules is expected by the end of this year, followed by another year's worth of public input and editing. …

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