STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) -- Mississippi State University is opening a new chapter in its research of unmanned aerial systems.
Officials from the land-grant institution were at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Tuesday for a memorandum of understanding signing with the U.S. Army's Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS).
The agreement will foster collaboration between PM UAS and MSU that complements one of the university's key research focus areas, according to a senior administrator.
"Our state is well positioned to continue to play a significant role in unmanned aerial systems research and development, as well as manufacturing, and it is one of the priorities for research that we have established at MSU," said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development.
According to Shaw, the use of unmanned air systems in non-conflict situations is growing with applications well suited for natural disaster response, humanitarian relief efforts, environmental impact assessment and precision agriculture, among others.
"This MOU will allow Mississippi State to boost its research capabilities and retool curricula, allowing students and faculty to research and study UAS use in the national airspace," said Lt. Col. Robb Walker, director of external programs for PM UAS.
"There are an endless number of things you could use UAS for. It is amazing to see what these students think of and how they conquer problems," he added.
As part of the MOU, the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center has provided the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at MSU with a Raven unmanned aircraft system, which consists of three airframes and ground control equipment.
"Our researchers will be able to use this advanced test aircraft to examine how to safely and ethically integrate unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace," said Maj. Gen. James Poss, USAF (Ret.), the director of strategic initiatives for MSU's High Performance Computing Collaboratory.
"MSU is uniquely suited to provide research in cutting-edge unmanned aircraft systems. We want to lead the way to find peaceful applications for this technology," he said.
Part of the university's Bagley College of Engineering, Raspet Flight Research Laboratory was established in 1948.
Since that time it has grown and expanded to include two state-of-the-art facilities and research endeavors with government and private industry including the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Lockheed Aircraft Corp., Honda Research and Development, and NASA.
Recently, Raspet has served as a start-up facility for various aerospace companies in Mississippi, providing workspace, technical training, and assistance with product development and research.
These efforts have helped companies such as American Eurocopter, Aurora Flight Science, GE Aerospace and Stark Aerospace establish bases in Mississippi, bringing more than 700 high-tech jobs to the state.
The Army has signed similar MOUs with Auburn University, University of Alabama, University of Alabama-Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Texas-Arlington.