Governor Mary Fallin announced Thursday that Oklahoma has been chosen as a test site for an unmanned aircraft system.
Fallin joined officials from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHSS&T) and the Oklahoma National Guard to make the announcement about the DHS Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) Program.
The program will research and test Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS), focusing on possible applications for first responders, including search and rescue scenarios, response to radiological and chemical incidents and fire response and mapping.
The program will be operated by Oklahoma State University's Multispectral Lab (UML) and takes advantage of the restricted airspace around Fort Sill, a U.S. military base also near Lawton.
RAPS is expected to represent a $1.4 million investment in Oklahoma in the first year of operations with potential for significant growth in future years.
The program is expected to last at least three years.
"Aerospace is one of the most important sectors of Oklahoma's economy, supporting over 150,000 jobs around the state and accounting for more than $12.5 billion in industrial output each year," Fallin said. "Within that industry, unmanned aircraft systems represent the fastest growing part of the aerospace sector. For that reason, Oklahoma is committed to becoming the number one place for UAS operations, research, experimentation, design and testing in the country. Today's announcement represents a big step in that direction."
Work is expected to begin this fall at a UML test site near Lawton.
The Oklahoma National Guard will be a key partner with both DHS S&T and the UML as the RAPS program develops.