News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 30, 2013

FAA rejects local bid for drone test

State rejected; ISU, airport eye industrial, commercial uses

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University and Terre Haute International Airport were among several partners in an Indiana-Ohio proposal to secure FAA approval as a research/test site for unmanned aircrafts.

The two states had hoped to improve their chances by combining forces and setting up the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center & Test Complex based in Springfield, Ohio. The proposal included several test ranges in southwest Ohio and southeast Indiana.

While that Indiana-Ohio bid was unsuccessful, some “significant initiatives” have already been launched through the two-state partnership, said Richard Baker, director of the Center for Unmanned Systems at ISU.

Some of the organizations are collaborating on industrial and commercialization efforts in such areas as agriculture, utilities and construction, he said. “We think those efforts will be just as important as test sites.”

Also, ISU hopes to be involved in research  with Indiana and Purdue universities as well as the Wright-Patterson Airforce Research Lab in Dayton, he said.

ISU also will work with the Terre Haute airport and first responders in research involving unmanned systems, Baker said.

The university currently offers a minor in unmanned systems, which includes 140 students. It hopes to offer a major by next fall. “ISU is on the leading edge of this, and we want to stay there,” Baker said.

The FAA on Monday announced the selection of the six public entities that will develop unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test sites around the country. Those entities are located in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

There were 25 proposals from 24 states,  and Baker believes the Indiana-Ohio proposal was competitive. The FAA looked for diversity in considering geography, climate and other factors.

The Indiana-Ohio proposal would have provided up to 1,500 jobs and $200 million in revenue across the two states, officials have estimated.

Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce officials lobbied on behalf of the Indiana-Ohio proposal in September during a visit to Washington, D.C., where they met members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.

Local officials pointed to Terre Haute’s 181st Intelligence Wing, the airport and ISU’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) curriculum as advantages.

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

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