Oklahoma, which is vying for a U.S. leadership role in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research, development and testing, would see 600 new jobs created in the first three years after UAS gain freer access to the national airspace system, which is expected in 2015, according to a forthcoming study. The economic impact to the state in that period would be $58 million.
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) unveiled preliminary findings of a UAS economic impact study that it has commissioned at a January 16 press conference in Oklahoma City. The study by aviation industry economist Darryl Jenkins projects that the UAS industry will support 105,685 jobs nationwide by 2025. “Future events, such as the establishment of test sites and the adoption of UAS technology by end users, will ultimately determine where many of these new jobs flow,” the association said.
With agriculture and oil and gas among its leading industries, Oklahoma is positioned to capture potentially thousands of those new jobs, AUVSI said. Nationwide, the agriculture sector will be the largest market for UAS as farmers use aircraft for crop monitoring, pesticide distribution and other applications, the study finds.
“UAS represents one of the fastest-growing segments of the aerospace industry,” said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican. “We are taking the steps necessary to create an environment conducive to job creation and investment that also positions Oklahoma as a national leader in the advancement of UAS technology.”
Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security selected Oklahoma as the test site for its Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (Raps) program to evaluate small UAS for emergency response missions. The Oklahoma State University Multispectral Lab facility near Elgin, Okla., is managing the Raps program and making use of the restricted airspace of Fort Sill. Oklahoma also aspires to host an FAA-designated UAS test range. The 2012 FAA reauthorization act requires the agency to choose six test ranges.