To contact: James Carskadon
STARKVILLE, Mississippi – The state of Mississippi celebrated another milestone Thursday [Dec. 1] in the university’s history of aviation innovation.
MSU leaders officially unveiled Theros, the latest addition to Raspet Flight Research Lab’s unmanned aircraft system, or UAS. At 1,800 pounds and with a wingspan of 40 feet, it is the largest UAS of any academic institution in the United States. The new aircraft will help government partners explore the university’s UAS capabilities to benefit fields such as the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace, agriculture, environmental science, emergency response, and infrastructure monitoring. MSU will increase its efforts to help.
“Our mission is to bring researchers, faculty and students together to develop technologies that will shape the future of aviation,” said Tom Brooks, director of Raspet’s flight research lab. “In officially unveiling Theros, we’re celebrating the progress we’ve made together in our research, and envisioning the future while demonstrating the power of large-scale UAS technology to change lives and make aviation safer and more efficient.”
Developed by Navmar Applied Science Corporation, Theros can fly for up to 24 hours without refueling and is equipped with a 4G LTE cellular system for use in disasters and other emergencies. It is expected to be the first UAS to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, meaning it is designed for full integration into the national airspace system in the future. Obtaining a variety of certifications will allow it to begin operating alongside manned aircraft when regulations permit.
During Thursday’s event, MSU President Mark E. Keenum highlighted some of the milestones in MSU’s aviation history, including working with Honda Corporation to build the world’s first all-purpose business jet. MSU’s first drone exploration began almost two decades ago in Raspeth. In the late 2000s, MSU’s North Persian Gulf Institute and Geosystems Research Institute developed innovative UAS programs focused on precision agriculture and environmental studies that continue to this day. In 2015, the UAS Systems Safety Association through MSU-led Research Excellence, or ASSURE, was selected as the FAA’s UAS Center of Excellence. Since then, MSU has led major UAS research, testing, and evaluation initiatives on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, and has continued to work closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on UAS research. In 2020, Raspet was designated as the FAA’s UAS Safety Research Facility.
“Aerial research has really become part of our DNA, and we’ve become a leader as a university, not only in this state, but nationally and in many ways globally,” Keenum said. “We are at the forefront of this technology that will impact our future. This creates a great opportunity for our students to learn about this technology. I believe we are starting a new chapter in the amazing work done by Raspet and MSU in aviation research and development.”
Julie Jordan, MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development, noted that MSU’s many UAS-related collaborations with local, state and national partners continue to produce meaningful results for stakeholders and the broader aviation community. He also noted the potential of Raspet’s activities to inspire the next generation of the nation and the nation’s aviation industry, as more than 800 students from MU’s Partnership Secondary School toured the lab in October.
“We’re very proud to have a team here at MSU that is blazing the trail for drones here in the United States,” Jordan said. “This vehicle represents the future of UAS technology and will continue to position the United States as a world leader in this field. Today, this vehicle solidifies Mississippi State and Raspeth as national leaders in this space.”
To learn more about the Raspet Flight Research Lab, visit www.raspet.msstate.edu.
MSU is Mississippi’s premier online university www.msstate.edu.