OKC flying high with drone industry

Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record

Last week, Oklahoma City announced exciting news in the aviation industry.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, a California-based company, is expanding to Oklahoma City to open a design and production facility for its unmanned aircraft systems division. Initially, the company will occupy approximately 8,000 square feet, with plans to expand into a 75,000-square-foot facility. The company expects to employ more than 350 workers in Oklahoma within the next few years.

Unmanned aircraft systems represent the fastest growth area in the aviation industry – an estimated $90 billion of work over a 10-year period. Oklahoma is well-positioned to attract companies in this industry. We are already considered one of America’s aeronautics hubs, thanks to the state’s long-standing ties with military contractors and big aviation, and the proximity of Tinker Air Force Base, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center and the FAA Logistics Center.

Our robust drone sector is an outgrowth of these partnerships. Oklahoma is nationally recognized for its research, development, testing, evaluation, training and education of commercial and military unmanned aircraft systems.

While defense and security create demand for UASs, their commercial applications are boundless. For example, drones are used to fly directly into volatile storms and transmit data back to meteorological researchers. First responders use UASs in search-and-rescue operations and disaster recovery efforts. Farmers and ranchers use them to monitor crop growth and harvesting, and production companies use drones equipped with cameras for commercial photography and videography.

Several of the approximately 18 aerospace companies in the state are based in Oklahoma City, including companies geared for UASs in the private sector such as Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Dow Aero Logistics LLC, Objectstream Inc., Supero UAS and the Unmanned Systems Innovation Center. Located near Tinker Air Force Base, the USIC specializes in private-sector UAS interests.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions said proximity to Tinker Air Force Base was one of the reasons it was attracted to Oklahoma City. It also said high quality of life, business-friendly environment and tax incentives were important factors. We have heard similar comments from several aerospace companies that have selected Oklahoma over other states. Let’s continue to seize these opportunities through our valued partnerships and economic incentives to firmly place Oklahoma in a leadership position in the highly competitive UAS arena.

Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

Read the story at JournalRecord.com

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