TULSA — Oklahoma needs to develop a network of test sites for unmanned aerial systems and support facilities to help the growing industry take off in the state, according to a report released Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Unmanned aerial systems — proponents tend to bristle at the term “drones” — are targeted for billions in federal spending and millions more in potential private development, the report from the Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council says.
Fallin released the report at the Farnborough International Airshow in England and wasn’t available for comment, but in a June 28 news release she said, unmanned systems are the fastest growing part of the aerospace sector, which supports more than 150,000 jobs and $12.5 billion in industrial output in the state each year.
“For that reason, Oklahoma is committed to becoming the number one place for (unmanned aerial systems) operations, research, experimentation, design and testing in the country,” Fallin said.
In a prepared statement Monday, Dennis Altendorf, director of aerospace development and strategy for the Tulsa Metro Chamber and a member of the study group said, “Unmanned aerial systems have tremendous potential as a catalyst for economic development and have been identified as a high-growth industry within the aerospace sector. The Tulsa region’s thriving aerospace and manufacturing industries make northeast Oklahoma an attractive location for continued growth in this dynamic field.”
The report’s 10 recommendations include a network of unmanned vehicle test sites, including facilities in Braggs, Kay County, Burns Flats, Lexington and near Norman.