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MSU hosts AUVSI symposium this week

May 14, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

Mississippi State University will host the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Tuesday and Wednesday for an Unmanned Aerial Systems Symposium.

While the bulk of the event, including speeches and breakout sessions, will take place at the Colvard Student Union, some elements are taking place at MSU’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, including a symposium dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and preliminary events which took place Monday afternoon and evening. Registration on both Tuesday and Wednesday extends from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the union’s second floor.

Sarah Rajala is dean of the Bagley College of Engineering, which serves as the event’s primary coordinator and one of its top sponsors. Rajala said the bulk of UAS companies attending are based in the U.S., but several are multinationals, giving the symposium an international scope.

“The purpose of the symposium is to bring together university faculty, individuals and government representatives to focus on unmanned aerial systems technology for the future,” Rajala said. “We have had a long-standing interest in research in unmanned systems here in the (Bagley) College of Engineering and Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. We have had strong partnerships with various government agencies and various companies.”

Specifically, Rajala said, MSU researchers have designed lightweight UAS vehicles, and MSU’s partners include Stark Aerospace and Aurora Flight Sciences. Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership chief operating officer, said her organization is also partnering with MSU for the event, reserving hotel rooms for the event and silver-level financial support.

“Starkville and particularly MSU hosting the AUVSI conference has been an excellent opportunity for Starkville ... to showcase the high level of technology and research taking place in the community,” Gregory said. “Participants from across the country will be visiting our community for this conference to hear about what’s taking place in ... the aerospace industry. It really allows Mississippi State and Starkville to be put on the map as it relates to aerospace technology.”

Gregory said the GSDP will also have an information table set up for visiting participants. The aerospace industry is one the GSDP has been targeting for development in the Thad Cochran Research Park and other areas of the community, she said, so the symposium poses connection-building opportunities for economic development.

“We appreciate the great work that the Bagley College of Engineering has done to plan and execute this conference in our community,” Gregory said. “We’re fortunate to have such a great partnership with administrators at MSU so that we can take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Rajala said MSU understands and embraces the role the AUVSI conference could play in Starkville’s economic development.

“One of our collective goals always is to try to recruit people to Mississippi from an industrial standpoint,” Rajala said. “These symposia are an opportunity to show people what can be done and is being done here.”

This is also not the first time MSU has hosted a UAS symposium, Rajala said, and it is not likely to be the last.

“We held one here about two years ago as well,” Rajala said. “(That symposium) was the first one in recent years, but there may have been one in the past. I imagine we will hold a symposium again. I’m not sure if it will be done on an annual basis. As long as there’s interest in unmanned aerial systems, I’m sure we’ll be involved one way or the other.”

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