Oregon State Lays out Ambitious Plans for UAV Development

Oregon State Lays out Ambitious Plans for UAV DevelopmentThe Autonomous Systems Research Group at Oregon State University (OSU) is planning to significantly expand its activities with unmanned technology this year.

The university plans to develop a local test field and a number of training and certification programs for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as unmanned vehicles for marine and terrestrial applications.

Working in partnership with private industry and government agencies, OSU hopes to capitalize on Oregon’s broad range of geographic land features.

“This is an important future strength area for OSU and an economic opportunity for Oregon,” says Rob Holman, co-director of the initiative and a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU.

“It’s surprising how far flight and control systems have already progressed,” he explains. “The industry is developing very rapidly, so timeliness of action is important. But there are still challenges in how to perfect technologies, most intelligently use the new systems, manage the data they produce, and train and certify both the aircraft and people who will operate them.

“We believe there’s a great deal OSU can contribute,” he says.

OSU is a participant in the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, one of the six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved test ranges.

The university is also part of a competitive, multi-university proposal to be designated as an FAA Center of Excellence. Additionally, OSU recently made an agreement with an Oregon economic development organization, SOAR Oregon, to promote commercial application of UAVs in the state.

One of the priorities this year, Holman says, is development of a local test field near Corvallis for training, testing and certification of both pilots and new technologies. It might include a netted area that would allow, without needing FAA permission, test flights for multi-rotor vehicles.

Other plans include the following:

  • Acquiring a small fleet of UAVs to be used for training, testing and contract research flights;
  • Organizing a flight operations group to help develop training and certification standards and safe flight policies;
  • Developing written and operation testing for flight operations; and
  • Creating privacy and data-use policies.


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