Dr. Stephen W.S. McKeever

Great aerospace minds are partnering to propel unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and aerospace technologies and applications forward.

Why are regions such as Oklahoma taking a proactive approach to UAS, with academia, government, and technology firms joining forces?

A statewide initiative was natural because the state's main industry sectors (oil & gas, aerospace, agriculture, defense, and security) will all directly benefit from development of the UAS industry. The benefits of this approach are that the UAS industry segments in Oklahoma, that otherwise may not have collaborated, are now working in partnership. Funding goals are prioritized, and UAS has become a state priority at multiple levels, including state politics, the private sector, and the education and research sectors.

Several major aerospace corporations have recently located here or are in discussions about partnering, expanding or locating in Oklahoma. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) have strong, continuing programs within the state for test and evaluation purposes. Economic developers are being attracted to this market segment and investors are likewise paying attention to what is happening in the state.

What segments are increasing the adoption of UAS?

Current activities include UAS application in: fire and rescue, disaster response, precision agriculture, power line inspections, oil & gas pipeline inspection, severe weather studies, homeland security research & development (including test & evaluation of existing technology and development of new technology for first responders and border patrol), defense and military test & evaluation (also including the development of new technology), research into platform design, autonomous systems, telem- etry, sense and avoid, radars, and, of course, education.

Current Oklahoma attentions with respect to applications are in agriculture, oil & gas, utility power lines, and severe storm studies. Other ongoing efforts are in radar development, platform design for specialist operations (e.g. long endurance, silent flight), autonomous systems, and aeronautical education with a specialty is UAS design. The most immediate niches and early adopters of this technology will be in first response and agriculture, with the energy industry not far behind.

What advice would you offer related to current and future UAS?

For students considering UAS as a career, take as many science and math courses as you can. At university, enter a program in which there is direct hands-on experience with building and operating UAS. Choose established university programs, and not some of the newer, online programs. For the business sector, be on the look-out for the utility of UAS for your businesses. This technology is transformational in that it will allow businesses to do things safer, cheaper, and faster, with less overall risk.


NAME: Dr. Stephen W.S. McKeever
TITLE: Secretary of Science & Technology
CO.: State of Oklahoma
ROLE: Bolster Oklahoma's burgeoning aerospace industry
CONTACT: www.okcommerce.gov

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February 2014
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