University of Missouri receives FAA approval for UAS research

By Patrick C. Miller | January 22, 2015

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued a certificate of authorization for unmanned aerial systems research at the University of Missouri’s Wurdack Research Center.

Located in rural Cook Station, Missouri, and operated by the university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the 1,200-acre center conducts research on cattle, forage, timber and agroforestry systems.

“This COA broadens the utilization of Wurdack and the role of our agricultural research centers to provide research to the people,” said Dusty Walter, Wurdack superintendent. “Technology has always played a key role in agriculture. This COA allows us to be on the leading edge of integration in management systems. This will be a huge benefit for Missourians.”

The COA was a collaborative effort between the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and Saint Louis University. Pilots are trained to fly the Maveric, a fixed-wing UAS made by Prioria Robotics equipped with cameras and special sensors for research.

The Maveric weighs just under 3 pounds and has a wingspan of nearly 30 inches. Capable of flying a pre-determined pattern via GPS, the Maveric will primarily be used for precision agriculture research and property surveying.

In 2013, SLU formed a research and development partnership with Prioria Robotics to create a program for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators and maintainers. The program is operated by SLU’s Center for Aviation Safety Research at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology.

Walter said that Missouri University plans to pursue COAs for more of its agricultural research centers across the state to better provide information to regional producers.

“I hope that this can help spur new industries in Missouri to not only benefit the producers, but the rest of the state as well,” he said.