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About CASS

UAS landing on sea ice

History of CASS

Oklahoma is a recognized world leader in weather and radar research and has a rich aviation and aerospace history. The State is also home to many aviation pioneers such as Clyde Cessna and Wiley Post.  Over the past century, Oklahoma’s role in aviation and aerospace has continued with the leadership of many native sons, such as U.S. Senator Mike Monroney, who established the legislation to create the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Early development of UAVs for weather research at the University of Oklahoma began in the late 1980s
Early development of UAVs for weather research at the University of Oklahoma began in the late 1980s


By virtue of its weather research strengths, the State has made many positive contributions to the aviation industry over the past few decades, but beginning in the 1980s, new concepts emerged at the University of Oklahoma (OU) for using small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to study atmospheric and weather phenomenon.  Within the last decade, the interest and focus have intensified and today, significant research efforts are underway in Oklahoma to utilize small unmanned aircraft to perform important weather-related research such as vertical profiling of the lower boundary layer of the atmosphere.  This type of in-situ measurement capability has the potential to be transformational in meteorology.

The emphasis on using small UAS for weather-related research and operations closely parallels Oklahoma’s interest in and commitment to developing a strong unmanned aircraft systems industry. OU is well positioned to capitalize on this opportunity given the strengths and resources already in place in the area of weather-related UAS research. However, OU’s opportunities in automated systems extends beyond the atmospheric sciences. A strong foundation has been built to enable OU to be a world leader in UAS-related environmental and atmospheric research.

The first field campaign of the NSF-funded CLOUD-MAP project was held in the summer of 2016 in Stillwater, OK - CLOUD MAP 2016 group shot
The first field campaign of the NSF-funded CLOUD-MAP project was held in the summer of 2016 in Stillwater, OK


Although early studies with weather research using unmanned aircraft began at OU already in the late 1980s within the aerospace engineering department (led by Dr. Karl Bergey), the project was a bit ahead of its time and did not fully mature. In late 2009, another weather related UAS project was begun at OU, this time within the School of Meteorology (led by Dr. Phillip Chilson). Minimal funding was available and so initial progress was slow, but continuous. Nevertheless, late 2009 can be taken as the “new beginning” of UAS weather research at OU. In 2015, the National Science Foundation awarded Oklahoma State University (lead), University of Oklahoma, University of Kentucky, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln with $6M over four years to investigate the potential benefits of using UAS in meteorology and atmospheric physics. Dr. Chilson is the OU lead for the project. This funding infusion was a game changer for UAS operations at OU and has enabled us to greatly expand the scope of reach of our research

CASS logo - CASS was established as a center on April 1, 2016
CASS was established as a center on April 1, 2016


On April 1st, 2016, OU launched the Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling (CASS) as a means of leveraging the State’s and University’s legacy in weather, engineering, and aviation to broaden and strengthen its core to include unmanned systems with a focus on adaptive sensing and sampling capabilities. Dr. Phillip Chilson was named as the Director, with James Grimsley as the Associate Director and Robert Huck as the Associate Director of Operations. Since its inception, the focus of CASS has been on developing and advancing application-based innovative solutions with no predisposition for a particular platform or measurement strategy.

Our Mission

CASS’s mission is to explore, advance, and develop complete adaptive and autonomous sensing and sampling systems for use in the atmosphere, on the ground, and in the water and to help facilitate the integration of this technology across various disciplines and institutions. To do so, CASS leverages the State’s and University’s strengths in aviation, atmospheric science, robotics, and remote sensing development to create innovative solutions to pressing societal needs and collaborate with industry to develop and transfer technology for commercial applications.