Gov. Fallin and Steve McKeever’s Drone Questing Collaboration

fallin red queen

Kaye Beach

March 27, 2012

Interesting article published today by FastCompany;

Inside Oklahoma’s Quest To Dominate The American Drone Industry

How politicians, universities, and aerospace firms are teaming up to turn the Sooner State into America’s UAV capital.

. . .Oklahoma businesspeople, academics, and politicians are collaborating through an organization named USA-OK, which aims to make the heartland state the focal point of American UAV development. A quasi-affiliated group, the Governor’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Council (PDF), was formed via an executive order from Governor Mary Fallin in 2011. Both organizations are lobbying for commercial drone test sites in Oklahoma and increased government assistance [that means your tax dollars!] in luring more large military contractors to the state.

Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Science and Technology and a prominent figure in the state’s UAV industry, told Fast Company that Oklahoma is already home to approximately 15 companies servicing the UAV industry. . . According to McKeever, the state offers a variety of incentives and subsidies for aerospace companies of all sizes.

McKeever and Fallin are busy luring this industry to Oklahoma meanwhile Mckeever and Fallin killed HB 1556 which would have simply required law enforcement to get a warrant before engaging in targeted surveillance of individuals and prohibit weaponization of the drones.

. . .Last month, the FAA announced that they are seeking six domestic test sites for UAVs. Due to the obvious commercial possibilities in, say, selling small aircraft for $1,000 a pop to farmers and real estate agencies looking to do aerial monitoring on a budget, UAVs are potential huge business. Giants such as Boeing and hundreds of smaller companies see commercial UAV usage as a gold rush waiting to happen.

State authorities inside Oklahoma issued a strategic drone plan detailing ways to build up the local UAV industry. These plans center on bringing one of the domestic UAV test sites to Oklahoma, which already tests military UAVs. . .

The FastCompany article mentions the Oklahoma UAS [DRONE] Summit held this Tuesday in Norman, but like the media in general, provides little detail on the conference.  (No mention of ‘Pesky Critters’ at all.)

This week, a major UAV convention took place in Oklahoma as well. . . .The agenda includes discussions of UAV use by emergency first responders, the Homeland Security Department’s proposed domestic spy drones. . .

Drone manufacturers even have lobbyists. [You don't say!]  . . .Michael Toscano, the organization’s president, advocates the integration of commercial drones into American airspace. Toscano, in an interview, stressed job creation possibilities if the FAA legalizes commercial drones.

AUVSI spent big dollars in lobbying on the FAA bill that expanded the use of drones in US airspace.  Their money was well spent too.

As a PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by Republic Report shows, the industry group all but wrote the legislation. “Our suggestions were often taken word-for-word,” it says. Read More

Mr. Toscano wasalso  right by Gov. Fallin’s and Stephen McKeever’s side on Jan 17th at a press conference held at the State Capitol in order to unveil the marvelous benefits of drone technology that is being cultivated with our tax dollars.

Interestingly, Toscano thinks that there is no need for addition privacy regulation.

Toscano says the drone industry thinks existing laws are sufficient: ”We believe that your Fourth  Amendment rights are protected.

Well that figures since legislation like Oklahoma’s HB 1556 might interfere with what Toscano sees as an open market.

Toscano. . .says there are nearly 19,000 law enforcement entities in the United States, of which only 300 now have aerial surveillance capacities.

“Those departments have helicopters which cost about $1,500 an hour to operate,” Toscano says. “You can fly these drones for maybe less than $50 hour. A lot of smaller departments can now afford this technology.” read more

Fallin_UAS_0

At the Jan. 17th press conference, McKeever said;

 “We fully recognize that reasonable people could have reasonable concerns and these must be dealt with that’s what our elected officials and government authorities are for.”

Fallin added that;

“We’re not interested in spying on anyone.”

Mary Fallin isn’t counting the little people.  Maybe she doesn’t consider what we would consider spying as spying.  Maybe she just thinks of as over sight.

Did you know that ‘OverSite’  is actually another great surveillance technology program  being promoted out of OSU’s Multispectral Laboratories and tested on unsuspecting Oklahomans at sporting events. 

‘To look at their RV parked at a game or concert, you’d never know that inside is all this technology and more’ link

umlThe Oklahoma State University Multispectral Laboratories (UML) is a public-private partnership “between the University and Anchor Dynamics Inc (ADI), which receives support from Ponca City Development Authority and ConocoPhillips, designed to accelerate commercialization of new technologies.”  http://www.okstate-uml.org/content/company-history

The UML acts as a “Trusted Agent” for U.S. Government, technology developers and operators.

Naturally, like the non-spying drones,  this is being done with a little boost from the non-spying Department of Homeland Security

The proof of concept demonstration was funded by the Department of Homeland Security. Link

OverSite incorporates facial recognition technology and a trick camera to spy on the crowd without them ever knowing a thing.  (but it’s not spying! It’s ‘OverSite’!) Read more 

And with all of the time, energy and money that has been spent, not one thing has been done to address the biggest concern of ordinary Oklahomans which is their privacy and safety.  It is the ordinary people of this state, after all,  who are paying for the ‘incentives’ being offered to court the drone industry here.

Little people, little problems.  We have our nightmares and they have their dreams. . .

Stephen McKeever, a transplanted Brit living in Oklahoma, dreams of turning his state into the capital for drones — the unmanned aircraft that, the Federal Aviation Administration predicts, will swarm the skies by the thousands within two decades. Read more

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5 responses to “Gov. Fallin and Steve McKeever’s Drone Questing Collaboration

  1. AND…Tom Cole is on the “Drone” committee in DC. How convenient.

  2. Excellent article Kaye – thanks. Sure understand Fallin’s infatuation with this industry and interest in making Oklahoma a hub for the research, manufacture and testing. We do have a some core competencies in this area which provide a good base and argument for furthering our penetration and participation commercially.
    That said, rolling over on key privacy issues is more than problematic. If “all is well” with these drones, i.e., “citizens should have no privacy concerns”, then why resist HB 1556? Of course, there is also the elephant in the room – Homeland Security and “Big Sis”. They seem to be all over the drone nexus. Again, problematic.
    Unfortunate the Governor couldn’t have taken a more principled, conservative approach to this whole area – recognizing an excellent emerging technology and manufacturing opportunity for our state while 1) not throwing citizen’s 4th amendment rights under the bus (or drone) and 2) not compelling taxpayers to underwrite the effort through subsidies and incentives.
    State Capitalism continues on the march, as does the erosion of our rights.

  3. We need to punish these cloaked overlords, starting with failin’ Fallin.

  4. Phillip, I agree. Who could argue with having a thriving industry in Oklahoma? But there is a right way to go about it and a wrong way and I am of the opinion that Gov. Fallin is doing it the wrong way.

  5. Pingback: Inside Oklahoma’s Quest To Dominate The American Drone Industry | The Freedom Watch

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