Indiana State University
Indiana State University in Terre Haute is an exemplar of the potential gains of academic-military partnership. ISU is a strategic partner for NSA Crane and the 181st Intelligence Wing based at Terre Haute International. It works regularly with Atterbury-Muscatatuck and Jefferson Proving Ground, primarily but not limited to the design and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles. Students and researchers work with and between various government departments, coordinating activities and performing evaluations on their designs.
ISU and the Indiana National Guard signed a memorandum of understanding in February 2012 to share restricted airspace and other resources in support of the unmanned systems program at ISU. In the new agreement, ISU will be able to use the restricted air space, runway, and other resources at CA-MCCO, in southeastern Indiana.
Major General R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of Indiana National Guard, said that the unmanned systems endeavor at ISU is “going to be very, very needed for the U.S.” The environment is made richer by the presence of the 181st Intelligence Wing in Terre Haute, which is engaging in real-world missions involving unmanned aerial vehicles.
“This is a great opportunity for the unmanned systems program,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Hauser, who is assistant adjutant general for air for the Indiana Air National Guard, aviation professor and director of unmanned systems at ISU Hauser. “This is such a fast-growing field and universities across the country are starting to pick up on it.” In addition to the critical defense capabilities, additional opportunities for non-military use exist for unmanned systems such as agriculture’s need for hyperspectral imaging, which can determine water or chemical content in the ground where crops would be planted.
ISU, which also offers degrees in Professional Aviation Flight Training and Aviation Management, is one of a few universities in the world offering a four-year major in unmanned systems. The program is not focused on aerial systems only, but includes all types of aerial, ground, and marine unmanned systems. The popularity of its multi-disciplinary approach is setting ISU up as a leader in the field. The unmanned systems curriculum incorporates aviation, computer science, criminology, environmental sciences and psychology, among others. In true synergistic fashion, many of the faculty in the Aviation Department are formerly or currently U.S. Air Force personnel or Indiana Air National Guard officers, and have close relationships with the 181st IW.
“You name it, there are a lot of disciplines that can get involved in this field," says Richard Baker who leads the Center for Homeland Security and Crisis Leadership at ISU, which includes the unmanned systems program. "It all comes together in how we use these unmanned systems for the extensions of people: arms, legs, ears and sight.”
Besides creating a degree program in unmanned systems, ISU is also the home for the Center for Unmanned Systems and Human Capital Development. Capabilities in unmanned systems provide new methods to address problems such as disaster response, crisis management, crop yield improvement, construction, and missions dangerous to humans. However, the most important component in any unmanned system is the human element. The industry term is “unmanned”, but the systems are completely dependent upon humans. People must operate, maintain, and support the vehicles, communications networks, computer systems, and other infrastructure elements in support of operations, research, testing, and development. The vision is to be nationally recognized as a Center for Unmanned Systems to educate and train the essential human operators in unmanned systems and to support the growing social and industrial need for human capital and technology research in this dynamic field. The Center facilitates technology transfer through partnerships with academia, government, and industry (commercial/civilian).
Through the Center, ISU plays a substantial role in coordinating activities with and among the various Defense sites in the state. For example, ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems leads Indiana’s UAS Test Site effort for coordinating, scheduling, and data acquisition for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Through an agreement with the Indiana National Guard, the Center is the Airspace Gateway for non-DoD aerial systems to be flown in the special use/restricted airspace in Indiana. The Center gathers the data and conducts initial analysis for UAV activity in the state while conducting a risk assessment for unmanned aerial vehicles and risk mitigation recommendation for the respective airspace managers.
ISU and NSWC Crane also participate in an Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA) with a major focus in research and technology testing of unmanned systems sensors and vehicles. The EPA will also aid in the educational experience of ISU students by providing a mechanism by which the students can benefit from the NSWC Crane staff expertise, unique facilities and equipment related to aviation technology, computer science, electronics and computer technology, mechanical engineering technology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, and mathematics. NSWC Crane’s contributions to this partnership will help to encourage student interest in science, mathematics, and engineering, particularly in these fields; will benefit the DoD in terms of advance training of future employees; and will benefit the Nation by encouraging interest in the sciences and engineering by young people at the beginning of their careers.
An additional benefit of the EPA with NSWC Crane is the ability for ISU faculty and students to conduct research and training at the NSWC Crane Glendora Lake site for unmanned systems. At Glendora, ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems can operate and train students with aerial, land, and marine vehicles. With restricted airspace, a 100 acre lake, and controlled access, Glendora provides an unequalled environment in the Midwest for unmanned systems operation at a short distance from ISU’s campus.