When talking unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), Oklahoma is known as the "Sooner" state for a different reason: Sooner access to a test and training range.

The Oklahoma training centre for unmanned systems (OTC-US), a privately owned two-runway UAV airport that opened its doors in January, says it has an industry-leading access time of 30 days.

Customers get access to two paved runways, one 670 meters (2,200ft) long, and the other 550 meters long, as well as access to 200mi2 of restricted airspace connected to the Fort Sill range. The airport, owned by Global ResQ and operated by a subsidiary of the University of Oklahoma, was funded by congressional earmarks and an Oklahoma innovation grant. The facility is located just outside of the range, but operators have agreements with the military in place to use a scorable bombing range 3mi away and a live-fire area 10mi away, says Global ResQ president Wayne Walker. OTC-US owns one Navmar Tiger Shark XTS UAV and has a second Tiger Shark on order for delivery in September.

Walker says most of the major UAV builders have visited the facility, and several have tested systems. MDBA has performed a captive-carry test of its small air bomb extended range (SABER) under the Tiger Shark. Walker says the company is scheduled to return to the facility to perform free-flight tests. Another company tested a GPS-guided mortar round on the range, dropping the munitions from 8,000ft, again using the Tiger Shark.

Walker says a ground-based situational awareness system that uses transponders or UAV downlink data to show the position of UAVs under development, potentially opening the range to increasing UAV activity. Currently UAVs must fly on a non-interference basis with T-38s and F-16s using the range. Walker plans for the facility to be self-sufficient in 18 months.

Source: Flight Daily News