August 3, 2011
Bend, OR - Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) and Oregon
State University (OSU) have signed an agreement to develop technologies related
to unmanned aerial systems that will benefit OSU’s academic and research
programs, particularly natural resource management. Simultaneously, the agreement would help EDCO
incubate new UAS startups and bring additional UAS businesses to the region and
EDCO conservatively estimates the potential economic impact of
recruiting UAS companies to the region to be approximately 450 employees, $28
million in payroll, and an overall economic impact of nearly $75 million within
a seven-year period.
“To diversify Central Oregon’s economy, we systematically review all
the industries EDCO targets,” noted Roger Lee, executive director of EDCO. “We’ve
now identified the growth segment in aviation—the UAS sector—that capitalizes
on our region’s natural and human resources. We see UAS, and other technology
initiatives, as key steps in growing jobs and economic activity in the
tri-county area and beyond.”
“The signing of this MOU,” Lee added “is an important step in
attracting UAS testing activities. In
turn, that groundwork will attract industry to either relocate or start up in
The initial goal of the partnership is to establish one or more
specific projects in which OSU researchers can conduct remote-sensing and
engineering experiments, and EDCO can create an initial series of UAS test
flights for those experiments. Through
special licenses called Certificates of Authorization (COAs), the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizes test flights.
As a public partner, OSU benefits from the partnership by creating a
test infrastructure to advance technologies such as robotics and sensor development
and deploy them in ways beneficial to a number of OSU academic programs,
including engineering, forestry, agriculture and other earth sciences.
“For OSU, the ability to test in our backyard is exciting,” said
Rick Spinrad, vice president for Research at OSU. Current testing for the university that
measures snowpack from the air is taking place in Colorado, for example. “It
could be quite beneficial and efficient to conduct these tests over the
Cascades, closer to university resources, receiving real time data and working
with Oregon companies,” he said. Spinrad
oversees OSU’s substantial research efforts, which last year translated to over
$260M in support.
Last year, EDCO’s aviation recruitment committee developed strategic
goals to establish Central Oregon as an R&D center for UAS research and as
an incubator for UAS businesses operating in the Northwest. An important component of the plan, required
by the FAA, is a public partner to initiate testing.
“With this agreement with Oregon State University,” said Collins
Hemingway, volunteer chair of EDCO’s Aviation Recruitment Committee, “our
initiative gains major ground in its goal to establish a UAS industry in
According to numerous studies, the current UAS market is $5 billion
and is projected to grow annually by 10 percent. Applications of particular
benefit to the Northwest include firefighting, search and rescue, rural law
enforcement, infrastructure monitoring, low-impact inventory of plant and
wildlife populations, and overall resource and land management.
Currently, UAS companies face long delays in securing air space to
test new technologies, which include airframes, controls, sensor packages and
software. Few places in the country meet the safety protocols required for
testing by the FAA. Delays of six months
or more for only a few days of testing are common for some smaller UAS firms.
Because Central Oregon has large expanses of airspace that are over
lightly populated rural areas and away from major airports and air traffic
corridors, and because the region has a history of developing and testing
experimental manned aircraft, the region believes it can obtain approval for
the testing of experimental unmanned systems while meeting the FAA’s strict safety
Under the EDCO-OSU partnership, the initial series of test flights
will use the COA method, but the hope is that the FAA will designate Central
Oregon as one of six permanent testing areas in the nation. The proposal to
create six new permanent sites is currently before Congress.
EDCO has gathered support from both public and private entities,
Central Oregon’s congressional delegation, the Oregon legislature, Governor
Kitzhaber, and cities and counties to establish one or more test sites in the
“We are all working together to make UAS testing a reality in
Central Oregon,” said Collins Hemingway. “The sooner we start, the sooner we
attract high-quality companies and start adding well-paying jobs.”
About Oregon State University
State University: OSU is one of only two U.S. universities designated a land-,
sea-, space- and sun-grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to
hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions
and its prestigious Community Engagement classification. Its nearly 24,000
students come from all 50 states and more than 90 nations. OSU programs touch
every county within Oregon, and its faculty teaches and conducts research on
issues of national and global importance.
About Economic Development for Central Oregon
Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is a private non-profit corporation
founded 30 years ago and dedicated to building a vibrant and thriving regional
economy by attracting new investment and traded-sector jobs (manufacturing,
professional, headquarters and high technology businesses) through marketing,
recruitment and substantive assistance to existing companies. Learn more about EDCO at www.edcoinfo.com.