MISS. DELEGATION HELPS LAND DHS UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TEST RANGE IN MISSISSIPPI
WASHINGTON, D.C. – All members of the Mississippi congressional delegation today welcomed the decision to base in Mississippi the Department of Homeland Security’s demonstration range facility for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), or drones.
U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) strongly endorsed the proposal developed by the Mississippi Partnership, led by Mississippi State University. The Mississippi Partnership plan was ultimately selected from among competing states by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. It will support the Department’s missions, which include border security, maritime security, and counter-UAS operations.
“Mississippi is uniquely suited to assist DHS in leveraging this technology in a way that is cost effective, provides access to unrestricted flight time, and is available immediately to support evolving and diverse Department missions. Mississippi has made supporting unmanned technologies a statewide priority and is home to numerous existing UAS operators, manufacturers, and researchers,” the delegation wrote in an October letter of support.
“We believe our state is well suited to address the Department’s requirements for demonstrating small unmanned aircrafts systems. We are committed to continuing to support our state’s efforts to advance capacity and knowledge about how to safely integrate UAS into the National Airspace in a way that contributes to our national security needs,” they said.
The facility for demonstration and research of sUAS would involve several Mississippi sites that would make nearly 2,000 square miles of restricted airspace over land and water, at altitudes up to 60,000 feet, available for UAS tests. Among these sites are Camp Shelby, which is the Army National Guard’s national UAS training center; buffer zone areas at the Stennis Space Center, which is used for Department of Defense special operations training; and maritime environment accessible from U.S. Coast Guard facilities on Singing River Island.
This Department of Homeland Security designation further bolsters Mississippi’s reputation for UAS operations and research. In May 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected the MSU Alliance for System Safety of UAS Through Research Excellence (ASSURE) to operate a new National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. In November 2016, the State of Mississippi became a full member in the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, one of seven FAA unmanned aircraft system test sites.