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Defense Research Associates Inc. opens office at NMSU

Defense Research Associates Inc. (DRA), an Ohio-based company that develops innovative defense-related technologies in conjunction with government research laboratories, has opened an office on the campus of New Mexico State University.

Roy Anderson, president of Defense Research Associates Inc., discusses his company's plans at the opening of a new office on the NMSU campus. DRA collaborates with NMSU's Physical Science Laboratory on the research and development of new technologies for unmanned aerial vehicles. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

DRA has collaborated with NMSU's Physical Science Laboratory for about four years on the development and testing of technologies for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The company's new Las Cruces office is located in PSL's Anderson Hall at the corner of Stewart and Espina streets.

"The opening of this office will enhance our collaboration with New Mexico State University in the development of sense-and-avoid technologies for unmanned aircraft," said DRA President Roy Anderson. "We are excited to be establishing a presence in Las Cruces and we expect our New Mexico operations to grow to about 30 high-tech jobs over the next two to three years."

The Las Cruces area "is about to explode, I think, and that's why we're here," Anderson said at a grand opening ceremony Monday. "This is a technologically strong growth area and we want to be part of it."

DRA employs about 75 people at its headquarters in Beavercreek, Ohio, near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The company's Las Cruces office initially will be staffed with one full-time DRA employee and two NMSU student employees, and other DRA employees will spend part of their time in Las Cruces.

As DRA's collaboration with PSL grows, it is expected the company will later move into larger quarters in facilities to be developed in the university's Arrowhead Center research park.

"We are pleased to have DRA located right here with us," said Steve Hottman, PSL associate dean and deputy director. "They offer exciting new technologies that are critical to the development of new applications for UAVs, especially see-and-avoid technologies that will allow UAVs to fly safely in civilian airspace. These technologies are important to the Department of Defense, but also to the FAA and a wide range of UAV users."

NMSU President Michael Martin said the partnership with DRA fits the university's land-grant mission well. "It will allow us to have students exposed to some of the cutting-edge activities in defense research, and hopefully will create long-term employment as well as internship opportunities," he said. "It allows us to do research ... and it most certainly contributes to our outreach mission of engagement and economic development."

DRA and NMSU have jointly participated in more than $6 million of initiatives funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and NAVAIR, the Naval Air Systems Command. NMSU is a teammate on a $1.7 million OSD-funded Technology Transition Initiative to reduce the size, weight, power requirements and cost of sense-and-avoid systems for application in smaller UAVs.

In addition, DRA teamed with PSL's Technical Analysis and Application Center (TAAC) to compete for and win a 10-year, $51 million AFRL contract for the Passive Electro-Optical/Infrared Threat and Target Detection Technology (PETAD) Program for developing sensor systems. The contract was awarded in January.

Anderson said DRA looks forward to hiring NMSU students in co-op positions.

"At our Beavercreek, Ohio, facility we currently have 15 former part-time students who have graduated and now work for DRA full-time," he said. "DRA uses local engineering schools and utilizes students as interns, in part-time roles on developmental programs. This model has been used to add more than 50 high-paying jobs in Ohio over the last six years, and we will continue this concept in New Mexico."

NMSU is the only non-federal entity with a Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System. This UAV flight capability is critical to testing DRA systems that have been mounted on NMSU's Aerostar UAV, Hottman said.

DRA's Las Cruces office is located in Rooms EB 202 and EB 204 of Anderson Hall. The telephone number is (505) 646-7076. More information about DRA can be found on the company's Web site at http://www.dra-inc.net/.