Oklahoma State University, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and the University Multispectral Laboratories to Collaborate on Unmanned Aerial System Research

(February 28, 2011 Stillwater, OK) – Under the terms of a new memorandum of understanding signed by the parties in January, students and faculty from Oklahoma State University (OSU), along with researchers and technicians at the OSU-owned University Multispectral Laboratories (UML) could soon be conducting joint research as well as developing prototype ground and airborne systems and equipment for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with cooperation of the U.S. Air Force (USAF).

The research agreement is for development and possible use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by FAA’s Office of Aviation System Standards. That office, part of FAA's Air Traffic Organization, verifies the accuracy of instrument landing and navigational control systems in the nation's airspace. The U.S. Air Force employs FAA equipment and procedures for the same purposes for military airfields, both in the U.S. and abroad.

FAA conducts approximately 18,000 flight inspections every year. It currently uses no unmanned vehicles in this verification process.

OSU and the UML maintain a distinguished track record in the development of UAS and associated technologies, working on projects for the Department of Defense and NASA. OSU announced last year that it will offer the world’s first graduate degree option in UAS, with the first students enrolled and having commenced studies January 2011. The UML was recently awarded a UAS-focused $43 million Department of Defense contract and a $1.5 million competitive contract through the Oklahoma Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) program. Oklahoma’s UAS focus, infrastructure, and aeronautical engineering experience combine to provide the FAA, the USAF, and the UAS industry in general a clear and compelling research, education, test, and evaluation solution for the UAS marketplace today and in the future. Both OSU and the UML operate UAS airfields in Oklahoma.

“This is an exciting opportunity for both OSU and the UML that allows us to build on our knowledge of unmanned aerial systems and introduce such systems to the FAA,” said Dr. Larry Hoberock, head of OSU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Use of UAS by the FAA and the USAF in inspecting instrument landing and navigation systems will potentially allow substantial increases in efficiency, reduction in costs, and improvement in safety. We hope this is the start of a continuing collaboration process that will be mutually beneficial for all involved.”

OSU faculty members Dr. Andy Arena, Dr. Jamey Jacob, Dr. Rick Gaeta and Dr. Joe Conner, will participate in the work. Graduate students Cody Pinkerman and Anton Mornhinweg will also be involved. UML Associate Lab Director Ken Viera, who will direct the UML’s part of the proposed endeavor, said, “This program validates Oklahoma’s commitment to the growing UAS industry and will establish our state as the “fly-to state” for UAS technology excellence.”

Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant system that cuts across disciplines to better prepare students for success. Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality teaching, research and outreach. OSU has more than 35,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 23,000 on its Stillwater campus, with students from all 50 states and 118 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 200,000 students who have made a lasting impact on Oklahoma and the world.