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May 29, 2014

Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann gets her wings visiting Indiana State’s Flight Academy

ISU working to be only fifth school with degree in unmanned systems

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann received a lesson on how to operate a small drone while visiting Indiana State University’s Flight Academy on Thursday.

Under the guidance of Richard Baker, director of ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems, she used an iPad to guide the Parrot Drone several feet into the air, sideways and almost into the path of media who were recording the event.

“Better watch it,” she laughed.

Once she finished, she told those assembled in the Hulman Field hangar, “You all were lucky.”

She visited the Flight Academy to learn more about ISU’s offerings in aviation and unmanned systems. She also spent time with the 181st Intelligence Wing.

As lieutenant governor, she oversees the state’s Office of Defense Development, created through executive order by Gov. Mike Pence to provide a focused effort on growing the defense sector business in Indiana and creating jobs.

Unmanned systems are important not only for military purposes but also for commercial and civilian uses, Ellspermann said. Unmanned systems can be aerial, ground or even underwater.

ISU is working toward becoming the fifth school nationwide to offer a degree in unmanned systems; it is working its way to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for approval.

ISU already offers a minor in unmanned systems, which 146 ISU students are pursuing.

“That is very important to the state and the nation,” Ellspermann said.

This month, she is visiting all of the state’s military installations, which she described as “significant assets” in Indiana.

As the U.S. military continues to look at budget cuts, Indiana wants to protect its military assets, Ellspermann said.

“We’re making sure that we put Indiana’s best foot forward. … We think Indiana is a very cost-effective state to do business in,” she said.

Also, she said, “We think there is a lot of opportunity to bring additional military work here and defense contractors here, and we want to pursue commercial applications of technologies that are happening at places like Crane. … We want to make sure Indiana is a state that’s on the forefront of the opportunities to create jobs.”

She said she was in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with representatives of Congress and military branches “to make sure we are sharing the story of the good work that is happening here.”

According to Baker, Ellspermann “wanted to know about what we are doing and how we are approaching education/training and what we are doing on the research side.”

As far as unmanned systems, “The real interest is in applications for the civilian side,” Baker said. “What we are trying to do is transfer this technology to where it can help people on the civilian side, like precision agriculture or first responders like search and rescue or other things that will be used in the future.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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