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Camp Shelby joint forces training center launches UAV research program

CAMP SHELBY, Mississippi — Representatives from the military, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the private sector gathered today at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center to launch a multi-agency research program designed to drive innovation while reducing costs of technology systems used within government unmanned vehicles, an industry worth $8.1 billion, as explained by organizers.

Friday’s announcement marks one of the first efforts nationwide to merge two leading technology trends: unmanned vehicle systems and open source software, said Col. William “Brad” Smith, commander at the sprawling Mississippi National Guard installation located just south of Hattiesburg.

The Open Source Unmanned Remote and Autonomous Vehicle Systems (OS-URAVS) program is a collaborative, public-private program to be based at Camp Shelby and administered in conjunction with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Acquisition University and non-government entities, including the Open Source Software Institute.

Smith said Camp Shelby’s size, location, existing infrastructure, and relationships with various agencies as a Joint Forces Training Center made this a unique venue to conduct the OS-URAVS program.

“Unmanned vehicles have become an important tool for military and civilian agencies and are used to address a variety of mission objectives including military, law enforcement, and other uses not commonly thought of, including disaster assessment and environmental monitoring,” said Smith, who holds a doctorate in environmental science. “Even as we increase our reliance on these systems, we must continue to look for ways to reduce costs while continuing to drive innovation.”

In addition to the new and emerging UAS innovations, Camp Shelby is partnering with Hinds Community College to further the education of future American Soldiers, engineers, scientists and other professionals to promote the development of the next generation of Unmanned Aerial Systems, operations and engineering development.

“Hinds Community College has the expertise, background, and organizational quality to lead Mississippi into the economic benefits of Unmanned Aerial Systems. The partnership with Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center and other UAS stakeholders further strengthen the strategic effort,” said Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College.

Today Col. Brad Smith and Dr. Clyde Muse signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Camp Shelby, Hinds Community College and Pearl River Community College. The colleges will grant academic and technical credit up to 30 hours within the Aviation Technology curriculum for comparable military training. This is a huge opportunity for Camp Shelby, their Soldiers, as well as students pursuing degrees focused on Unmanned Aerial Systems Technology.

As one of the nation’s largest military mobilization bases, Camp Shelby maintains exclusive access to nearly 100 square miles of restricted air space and currently operates training and testing facilities for a variety of government agencies and defense contractors.

“The unfettered infrastructure is why we are exploring ways Open Source Software can be more readily integrated into the development and maintenance of our unmanned systems,” Smith said

Open source software is software whose license agreement grants the user specific rights to access the human-readable source code and to modify and distribute the software without restriction or requirement to pay license fees. The user’s right to access, modify, and distribute the software helps to eliminate single-vendor lock-in and encourages competition which drives down cost and improves efficiency and innovation

John Weathersby, executive director of the Washington-based Open Source Software Institute, said the opportunity to merge these two technologies was too good to pass up. Weathersby said the OS-URAVS program seeks to identify common Open Source technologies and practices used within various agencies’ unmanned vehicle programs.

“The goal is to identify and document specific technical, economic and administrative benefits provided by open technology solutions and to share this information with government unmanned vehicle programs, commercial suppliers and open source development communities,” he said.

“The goal is to identify and document specific technical, economic and administrative benefits provided by open technology solutions and to share this information with government unmanned vehicle programs, commercial suppliers and open source development communities,” he said.

Weathersby said the economic development opportunities are very likely, especially with a UAS conference tailored specifically for the OSS community that is planned for fall 2014.

“As a trade association, we look forward to working with Camp Shelby and inviting commercial entities down to visit and hopefully setting up shop throughout the South Mississippi Defense Corridor in support of this effort,” Weathersby said.

Globally, unmanned vehicles and their payload systems represent an approximately $50 billion market. Unmanned vehicles are not new to Camp Shelby. In 2012, the post became home to the Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center, where construction and equipment worth $72 million is underway.

The Open Source Software Institute is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the development and implementation of open source software solutions within US Federal, state and local government agencies.

OSSI developed the OS-URAVS program as part of the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate’s Homeland Open Security Technology (HOST) program. The DHS HOST program (http://www.dhs.gov/csd-host) was launched in 2007 to identify open source software solutions that support national cyber security objectives. The initial phase of the OS-URAVS program is scheduled to last one year but Smith said he does not see an end to the possibilities for this program and its growth at Camp Shelby.

Camp Shelby continues to meet the challenge of providing for the Nation’s defense by planning, developing, and providing a constantly evolving diverse and demanding training environment to meet new and emerging threats to our Nation’s security.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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