Oklahoma – A World Leader in Unmanned Aerial Systems
Already recognized as global aerospace hub, Oklahoma is rapidly becoming known as the "fly to" state for research, development, testing, evaluation, training and education in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
Oklahoma's UAS / UAV eco-system has one of the most comprehensive industry infrastructures in the world. The state is well positioned to provide "one stop shop" solutions for all categories of unmanned aircraft. The state's rich history in aerospace has added to the sheer volume of unmanned aircraft development in Oklahoma, and is now one of the fastest growing segments of the aerospace industry in the state.
Economic forecasts for the growth of the UAS industry globally are expected to rapidly increase. The current world market for UAS technology is estimated to be $5.9B and is expected to increase to $15.1B over the next decade.
With its central location, ideal terrain, research and development capabilities, testing facilities, training programs, business incentives, comprehensive UAS infrastructure, and the only graduate degree in unmanned aerial systems in the world, Oklahoma is leading the industry on all fronts.
In the future, robotic aircraft will assume an even larger role in aviation. While today unmanned systems are primarily used by the military, we are seeing growing commercial applications. This segment of the aviation industry is very important to the economic future of Oklahoma.
Students at Oklahoma State University are pushing the limits of bio mimicry design, that works to imitate animal form and behavior for use in the stealth monitoring of behavior in humans and animals alike. They experiment with shape and form, found technologies, size, range, and capacity. Imagination is the only limit to the forms and functions of unmanned aerial systems. The technology has seemingly unlimited uses.
From the lessons learned at the Oklahoma State University Multispectral lab, undergraduate and graduate work, the partnerships with the private sector, the military, and the many entrepreneurs operating in Oklahoma, a vibrant industry is emerging for non-military unmanned aerial systems.
Some of the practical applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems technologies include data gathering and inspections for infrastructure such as large bridges and the exteriors of large buildings. The UAS' can access locations humans cannot to provide integral data on structural issues and potential hazards.
UAS technology is used by Arctic ice breakers to identify ice paths for critical shipping lanes. It was also used in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to monitor atmospheric levels of radiation. The technology is virtually limitless and will be driven by specific needs in the market place, limited only by imagination.
Oklahoma is at the epicenter of innovation in UAS technology and applications. Fueled by an increasing portfolio of applications for the technology, the industry is booming. Some of the emerging applications include:
- Biomimicry – embedding biologically inspired remote systems in nature to observe animal behavior;
- Tracking of animal migration patterns;
- General Security – for site security;
- Radar Research – testing the limits of radar in detection, avoidance, and stealth operations;
- Climatologically – weather and atmospheric sciences;
- Public Safety – security at large public events and gatherings;
- Surveillance – use of monitoring technologies for security and 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;
- Structures – unconventional design and configuration testing;
- Cyber Security – wireless security;
- Oil & Gas – scanning of pipelines for damage and leaks as well as exploration;
- Sensors – carrying sensor technology for a wide range of uses in 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.
Oklahoma's UAS Sector Facts & Figures
- First master's and doctoral degrees with options in UAV in the U.S. at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater;
- Oklahoma was selected as the test site for the new Department of Homeland Security Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety Program (RAPS);
- University Multispectral Laboratories - Oklahoma State University (OSU) established the University Multispectral Laboratories (UML) as a government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation, tasked as a "Trusted Agent" to develop and operate Research, Development, Test, Evaluation, and Training (RDTE&T) laboratory and field facilities in support of C5ISR and CBRNE missions including; urban, rural, subterranean, explosive, and UAS complexes aided by test and evaluation equipment and sensors to meet U.S. Federal, State, local and commercial requirements;
- A UAV Flight Corridor;
- The only UAV testing and training facility dedicated solely to the UAV marketplace.
- Urban UAV testing facility at Chilocco- 20.5 square kilometers and training site with a 708,200 square meter acre urban testing site at an abandoned university campus for training in urban operations and radio frequency and sensor testing;
- Consortium led by Oklahoma State University and the University Multispectral Laboratories;
- Collaboration with companies such as Flight Safety International, Design Intelligence Inc., Tactical Electronics Inc., Zivko Aeronautics, Atria Defense Group, and Frontier Electronics;
- Oklahoma State University in Stillwater UAV Flying Field – 18 meter x 600 meter runway and 11 square meter hangar;
- A recent agreement between OSU, the UML, the US Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration designed to develop technologies that would allow the use of UAV in testing electronic approach and landing systems at civilian and military airports throughout the US;
- Students at Oklahoma State University are world leaders when it comes to UAV and have dominated the international design/build/fly competition in recent years, winning seven times and finishing 1-2 on five occasions;
- State tax incentives targeting aerospace professionals and companies.
Oklahoma's UAS/UAV Sector Successes
- Award of $1.5M state EDGE contract to establish and grow the OK UAS Consortium;
- 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;
- Oklahoma State University holds five UAS world records, including the record in point and return range mission using a new UAV called the Pterosoar;
- 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.;
- Establishment of the UAS Experimentation Center, Stillwater, OK;
- Establishment of the Oklahoma UAS Committee residing under the Secretary of Science and Technology;
- Establishment of the Oklahoma AUVSI Chapter.
Military-Related Research and Development
Defense related research is a growing segment of Oklahoma's unmanned aerial systems industry. Demand for offense and defense-centric technology continues to rise and the private sector as well as military-backed research and development projects are actively underway.
Some of the applications for defense range from surveillance to sensor related technologies. For sensors, unmanned systems can detect the existence of dangerous chemicals and biological agents to errant cell phone signals used to detonate improvised explosive devices.
The military is fully exploring the applications of unmanned technology and Oklahoma is at the center of the research taking place in the industry.