Country's Only Unmanned Aircraft Regional Flight Center Opens at Camp Shelby and Led by Mississippi State the FAA's COE for UAS
August 24, 2017
Mississippi once again has proven it is one of the best locations in the country for military training and technology, 4th Congressional District Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, said during a press conference Tuesday at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby.
The event was held to celebrate the grand opening of the Department of Homeland Security's Common Unmanned Aircraft System Site.
"It's because we all work together very well," Palazzo said, referring to government and local officials collaborating on big projects. "So it was no surprise to me that they see what we have to offer here in Mississippi."
Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center along with DHS' Science and Technology Directorate and Mississippi State University on Tuesday demonstrated how it tests and evaluates small unmanned aircraft systems and their operators.
The $72 million UAS Support facility is the only Unmanned Aircraft Regional Flight Center in the country, Acting DHS Undersecretary William Bryan said.
Bryan said Camp Shelby had to meet rigorous criteria before it was accepted as the home site.
"This is a great day for Mississippi," he said.
The project's goal is to enhance the security and safety of the country's borders, conduct search and rescue missions and help during natural disasters as well as protect the privacy and rights of U.S. citizens, Bryan said.
The site provides a number of scenarios for testing, from villages to active shooting to maritime situations, with the Navy's Singing River Island facility in the Gulf of Mexico nearby, Bryan said.
Bryan said because there are so many uses for the technology, it is crucial that operators have a full knowledge of how to use the unmanned aircraft systems and their functions.
Operators must demonstrate their skills at the controls of the unmanned aircraft systems and the systems must be able to complete a number of tasks, starting with small, simple activities and moving up to the bigger and more complex.
Unmanned aircraft systems are used for various functions: search and rescue, finding high-value people, reconnaissance, hazards, disasters and more, said Adam Jacoff, a robotics research engineer who explained the demonstrations.
"Anything that happens to fall in the daily life of any of our components," he said.
Customers and partners come from both public and private sectors, some of which include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and first responders across the country and the world, Palazzo said, adding the partners and customers already have invested in the site and are expected to continue to do so.
MSU has been working on unmanned aerial technology for about two years, President Mark Keenum said.
The university's faculty and staff in the area of aerospace engineering are leading the way for explorations in the new technology.
"It's an important technology for all of us here in the state," Keenum said. "It's a national research center for unmanned technology. And students will have the opportunity to be invested in this new, budding field. "That we are at the center of the (unmanned aircraft systems) universe brings great pride to me."
Bryan said Camp Shelby's proximity to water and open land also made it a prime location for technological assessments.
Palazzo said Camp Shelby being chosen as the UAS facility demonstrates the value Mississippi has to the rest of the nation.
"People are lining up to come down here," he said. "It is a national asset," Bryan agreed.
Palazzo said using unmanned aircraft systems in military functions gives the United States a big advantage.
"We don't want to engage in a fair fight when we fight the enemy," he said. "We want to dominate them. We want to destroy them."
But unmanned aircraft systems technology will become useful to most everyone in the country, Palazzo added.
"The benefits of the application will grow and multiply to benefit all Americans," he said. "We've got to make these smart investments because the technological gap is closing between some of our world competitors."
Written by Lici Beveridge, Hattiesburg American