OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State leaders expressed disappointment on Monday that Oklahoma was not among six states selected as a test site for commercial drone technology, but they vowed the state will continue its push to be a leader in the burgeoning sector of the aerospace industry.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia were selected to host research sites.
Oklahoma was one of about two dozen states vying to become a test location. Its application boasted of 300 flying days a year, a dedicated 201-acre park with a 2,500-foot runway adjacent to Fort Sill, and available air space that stretches about 90 miles from Fort Sill to the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base.
“This doesn’t deter our plans for Oklahoma to become a major unmanned aerial systems center in the U.S. for both commercial and military applications,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Oklahoma already has established a national reputation as a great place for UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) testing and investment.”
Oklahoma already is home to a drone testing and training facility near Elgin for the Department of Homeland Security, and 18 Oklahoma-based companies are actively engaged in the industry. Oklahoma State University also has an established graduate program in unmanned aerial systems.
Stephen McKeever, Fallin’s secretary of science and technology who served as the state’s point person on the application, said he will seek a briefing from FAA officials about why Oklahoma wasn’t selected.
A recent study by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce shows the direct impact of FAA’s selection of Oklahoma as a test site would have been 2,000 jobs, $200 million in increased economic activity and $20 million in state tax revenue.
Commonly associated with the military, the commercial applications for drone technology are tremendous. The oil and gas industry can use them to monitor pipelines, farmers can dust crops or locate livestock with drones, and public safety officials can use them to conduct surveillance or monitor damage in the wake of a natural disaster.