University signs MOU with Alaska Fairbanks

Mississippi's flagship research university and the nation's northernmost land-, sea- and space-grant institution are now working together to advance development of unmanned aircraft solutions for the oil and gas industry.

On June 8, Mississippi State's David Shaw signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) creating a new long-term partnership to advance interdisciplinary unmanned aerial systems research and development.

"We believe that together the research, education and outreach assets of our institutions will lead to important discoveries and solutions that enhance oil exploration, which holds tremendous potential for both of our states and the nation," the vice president for research and economic development said.

An Alaska official echoed Shaw's assessment.

"The strategic partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Mississippi State University is logical and value adding for our respective universities and to our clients nationwide. With initial efforts geared toward research and development, and test and evaluation with a focus on the oil and gas industries, UAF and MSU can leverage their considerable experience, expertise, and share resources to expand the use of unmanned aircraft in oil and gas from the North Slope of Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico," said Marty W. Rogers, director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration at UAF.

According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the domestic UAS market is projected to create more than 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade after FAA integration into the national airspace system is complete. During the same period, the UAS industry could create more than 1,200 jobs and approximately $973 million in economic impact in Mississippi alone.

"This relationship provides value not just to industry, but to the people of both Alaska and Mississippi, as it offers job growth and opportunities in a high-tech and growing industry," Rogers said.

In May, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that the Mississippi State-led Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) will operate the new National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

"We are looking forward to a successful partnership as we take leading-edge UAS research and turn it into FAA rules quickly," said USAF Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James Poss, the consortium's executive director.

The new MOU between MSU and UAF will benefit ASSURE's mission, he said.

"This is a great step forward for MSU, UAF and ASSURE. This will make it much easier for Mississippi State to fly UAS research missions over Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico with the help of Alaska's Pan-Pacific UAS Test Site," Poss said.

Rogers serves as deputy director of ASSURE, and UAF is one of 15 core university members of the alliance.

Learn more about ASSURE at

As the state's flagship research university, MSU is a recognized leader in a number of fields, and well known for productive partnerships, real-world impact, and offering undergraduate and graduate students unique research opportunities. In FY 2013, MSU's research and development expenditures totaled $206 million -- representing nearly half of all R&D by higher education in the state, according to National Science Foundation data.

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Jim Laird | Public Affairs

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