Unmanned aircraft system development, MRO take off in Oklahoma

PARIS, 16 June 2015. During Paris Air Show 2015, Aerospace professionals, officials, and educators from Oklahoma are announcing recent unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) developments and activities stemming from innovators in the state. Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Dr. Stephen McKeever and Vince Howie, director of aerospace and defense at the Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce, are at Paris Air Show meeting with and updating industry on a variety of aerospace developments.

Oklahoma industry, academia focused on advancing UAS technologies, adoption, applications
Oklahoma industry, academia focused on advancing UAS technologies, adoption, applications

PARIS, 16 June 2015. During Paris Air Show 2015,Aerospace professionals, officials, and educators from Oklahoma are announcing recent unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) developments and activities stemming from innovators in the state. Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Dr. Stephen McKeever and Vince Howie, director of aerospace and defense at the Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce, are at Paris Air Show meeting with and updating industry on a variety of aerospace developments.

Oklahoma industry, academia focused on advancing UAS technologies, adoption, applicationsOklahoma industry, academia focused on advancing UAS technologies, adoption, applications

Recent news related to UAS coming out of Oklahoma:

Unmanned Systems Innovation Center (USIC) (Oklahoma City, OK)

Located at the Tinker Business and Industrial Park, the USIC, established in 2014, specializes in private sector UAS interests. It sits across from Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), which along with General Atomics and Rolls Royce, performs MRO activities on the engines for the Reaper and the Global Hawk. USIC is an incubator for small to middle sized UAS companies offering physical space, collaboration opportunities, access to markets and financial investment opportunities.

Oklahoma successfully met all objectives laid out in Gov. Fallin’s 2012 state-wide UAS road-map. The number of private companies in Oklahoma involved in UAS as part of their business, wholly or partly, has increased more than 45% since inception of the plan. A second, just approved 10-year plan, focuses on public investments that need to be allocated to achieve UAS industry diversification within OK to ensure sustainable economic and job growth.

Research conducted by Dr. Jamey Jacobs at Oklahoma State University (OSU) is advancing the use of UAVs for precision agriculture and livestock monitoring. UAVs and robotics with ground sensors, air sensors and pest sensors are being used to collect data from the air and ground to help researchers better understand how to leverage such technologies in the ag setting. OSU was the first to offer a complete UAS option at the graduate level, as a specialization in the MS and PhD programs in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. OSU now also offers a Minor BS degree in UAS operation and piloting.

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, in Tulsa OK, has started a new program in Aviation Electronics Technology devoted to UAS. The program is certified by the National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies and offers a 13-month Diploma or a 16-month Associates Degree. The program is one of the first of its kind in the US.

Researchers at University of Oklahoma’s Advanced Radar Research Center (ARRC) 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.

University of Tulsa’s Institute for Information Security (iSec) is leading research and innovation surrounding UAS auto pilot development and securing the communications and computer systems controlling the UAS. The NSA has designated TU as a Center of Academic Excellence for Information Assurance Education and Research.

Oklahoma is one of 20 states aligned with NEXA Capital, a non-for-profit investment fund which aims to invest $2.2 billion in private equity in key technologies and infrastructure projects with the goal of energizing the unmanned aircraft industry in the US.

Meteorology researchers at the NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Centre in Norman, OK, in conjunction with OSU and OU engineers, are perfecting the development of piloted sensor platforms launched into storm cells to help predict and track tornadoes; allowing for pre-emptive warnings, hours – not minutes – before disaster strikes.

DRS opens Gulf Coast MRO for maintenance, repair, and overhaul of fixed-wing aircraft and helicoptersDRS opens Gulf Coast MRO for maintenance, repair, and overhaul of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters

Recent Oklahoma MRO developments:

Plans are under way by US Airways/AA to further invest and expand its world-class Tulsa, OK MRO site to accommodate 737-800 and A320 aircrafts.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County and the Air Force jointly purchased 156 acres outside of Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, for $44 million, to build 14 hanger s to house the MRO operations for the following aircrafts: the KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker (as of 2018), Bomber-X (Long Range Strike Bomber) and the next generation re-fueler KC-Y.

VA based aerospace company, Alion, won a contract to help the Air Force depot activate the KC-46A at Tinker AFB. The company which currently has 8 employees in OKC, plans to hire 50 to 100 workers in 2015-16 to meet staff needs.

Field Aerospace acquired ARINC, a division of Rockwell Collins, which makes modifications to U.S. Department of Defense aircrafts. Additional investments in company infrastructure such as new hangers are being planned for 2015-16.

Boeing announced an additional 900 jobs moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle and Kansas City to staff a laboratory to test military and commercial aircraft parts. This represents Boeing’s first commercial aircraft activity in OK. Boeing has gone on record that one of the key factors for it to continue moving jobs to OK was the state’s business climate, cost of utilities and its Quality Jobs and 21st Century Jobs Incentive Programs.

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