Fallin announces selection in unmanned aircraft research worth at least $1.4 million
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, June 29, 2012
6/29/12 at 3:23 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has selected Oklahoma for a research project involving unmanned aircraft used by first responders.
"Oklahoma has been selected to be the test site for a new, robotic aircraft for public safety program," the governor said.
Oklahoma was among six or seven states in the running for the project, which will have an initial investment of $1.4 million. The project is expected to last three years.
It is the first research site of its kind in the nation, Fallin said.
Work is expected to begin this fall at Oklahoma State University's Multispectral Lab test site near Lawton. The project takes advantage of the restricted airspace around the nearby Fort Sill Army post.
The project involves research and testing of small, unmanned aircraft used by first responders in search and rescue missions, response to radiological and chemical incidents, fire response and mapping, Fallin said.
The project will focus on the testing and evaluation of technologies that can be used by first responders, said Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma's secretary of Science and Technology.
"The use of unmanned aerial systems in those natural disasters is an enormous step forward to help the first responders, the firefighters, the emergency services, to help them deal with those issues and to save lives," he said.
The Oklahoma National Guard will be a player in the project.
Oklahoma's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, said it is much more efficient and cheaper to use the unmanned aircraft, which can provide immediate information to first responders.
Deering, who led a response effort to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans, said it takes about $5,400 per hour to use a Black Hawk helicopter.
"Additional aerial surveillance would have helped save lives and direct forces on the ground in New Orleans," he said. "Real-time imagery is vitally important to saving lives and preserving property. The availability of unmanned aircraft would have afforded us the capability to more quickly map out areas where we were more immediately needed instead of depending on dated satellite imagery which had little real time relevancy."
The project is called the Department of Homeland Security Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety Program.
"As all of us know, aerospace is a very important industry sector in the state of Oklahoma," Fallin said. "It supports approximately 150,000 Oklahomans in jobs. It has an economic output of $12 billion in our economy and $5 billion in annual payroll in our state."
The industry has a trickle-down effect on the state's economy, the governor said.
"Aerospace creates other opportunities for other industries to come into Oklahoma," she said.
The unmanned aircraft is one of the fastest growing new segments for the aerospace sector and its potential for growth in Oklahoma is enormous, Fallin said.
Original Print Headline: State wins unmanned aircraft project
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Gov. Mary Fallin: "As all of us know, aerospace is a very important industry sector in the state of Oklahoma," she said, and the industry has a trickle-down effect on the state's economy