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The Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma (USA-OK) was created in February 2009 in order to promote the emerging unmanned systems industry in Oklahoma.

USA-OK was created as a result of Oklahoma’s first UAS Summit held in Guthrie Oklahoma where representatives from Oklahoma industry, government and academia all met to establish the framework for supporting Oklahoma’s UAS industry and networking with the state’s UAS stakeholders.  As interest in Oklahoma’s UAS industry grew, a second state-wide UAS summit was held in Lawton Oklahoma in the early spring of 2010.  The 2009 Oklahoma Aerospace strategy report recommended that Oklahoma create a state chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).  A core group of leaders begin the effort to create the bylaws, develop a proposal and obtain the necessary signatures to obtain state chapter status from AUVSI.  In May 2011, the AUVSI board of directors approved Oklahoma’s application and USA-OK became a chapter of AUVSI.

USA-OK is only one part of Oklahoma’s UAS efforts.  In the summer of 2011, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed an executive order to create the Governor’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Council.  Members were selected from the UAS industry, state government, academia, and the defense industry and each was appointed by the Governor to serve in an advisory capacity.  The council is chaired by Oklahoma’s Science and Technology Secretary, Dr. Stephen McKeever.

Oklahoma has a rich history and legacy in aerospace.  Many aviation and aerospace innovations have occurred within the state.  USA-OK represents the continued work of many Oklahomans to ensure that Oklahoma remains a leader in the aerospace industry.

Several Oklahoma small companies have been created in the past few years that focus on unique unmanned systems market requirements. Initially these small companies operated in isolation with little or no knowledge of the other Oklahoma unmanned systems stakeholders. However, as a result of the grass-roots efforts and organization of USA-OK, Oklahoma state government agencies, universities, and other entities are now actively supporting Oklahoma small businesses that are involved with the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) and production of unmanned systems and related technology. The Oklahoma State University (OSU) University Multispectral Laboratories (UML) is also successfully leading a team of small businesses and other entities in Oklahoma that are active in RDT&E of unmanned systems technology. This team of small businesses represents the majority and core of Oklahoma unmanned systems technology.

Although segments of USA-OK existed earlier, the USA-OK organization was formed in 2009 to foster increased collaboration between the various Oklahoma small businesses and other entities to ensure that this emerging Oklahoma industry continues to grow and thrive. The goal of USA-OK is to create an organization that can represent the Oklahoma unmanned systems industry at both the state and national levels. However, to-date USA-OK has operated as a “grass-roots” volunteer-driven effort and lacks the resources to fully exploit the opportunity and growth opportunities for small businesses in the state that are developing unmanned systems technology.

USA-OK has convened multiple annual state unmanned systems summits since 2009 to assist with the formation and organization of the Oklahoma unmanned systems regional cluster. These summits were well-attended by the various stakeholders in Oklahoma’s unmanned systems industry including small businesses, state agencies, economic development authorities, and state universities. Federal officials from the DoD and the U.S. Congress have also participated in the summits.

The USA-OK leadership also includes several former Department of Defense (DoD) personnel (both military and civilian) that have held senior positions within the DoD and other organizations and programs. These individuals provide a rich experience and knowledge base for Oklahoma’s unmanned systems industry.