Director's Welcome

A headshot of Tom Brooks
Tom Brooks

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory (RFRL), the premier manned and unmanned aviation research facility in the nation. Established in 1948, RFRL possesses a rich heritage in full-scale aircraft RDT&E, particularly in advanced flight test. RFRL’s rich history includes dozens of aviation “firsts,” particularly in the application of cutting-edge composite structures in aviation.

Today, RFRL’s focus is to perform advanced research, development, and testing of:

•    Manned and Unmanned Aircraft
•    Automated Flight Control Systems
•    Aircraft Sub-Structures and Components
•    Ground and Airborne Sensor Systems, including Detect and Avoid
•    Ground and Maritime Robotic interoperability

MSU’s unique position as the only university in the nation that is nationaly-designated as an FAA Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence, the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety Research Facility, and the Department of Homeland Security's Common UAS Test Site, provides unparalleled capability to conduct world-class research and comprehensive flight testing for unmanned aircraft, ground control systems, component systems, and key supporting technologies such as detect and avoid.

As the Executive Director of the ASSURE FAA UAS Center of Excellence, MSU leads a coalition of 25 of the finest aviation research universities in the world, conducting foundational research on groundbreaking technologies and processes that enable and enhance the ability of UAS to fly in the national airspace system. No one does more FAA-sponsored direct research than ASSURE, and no one can match MSU and RFRL’s capabilities on the UAS flight and integration issues that matter most.

In its recently designated role as Federal Aviation Administration's UAS Safety Research Facility (UASSRF), RFRL is tasked with conducting, verifying and validating research conducted by government, academia and industry to ensure that proposed UAS technologies meet appropriate performance and safety standards. In selecting RFRL as the National UASSRF, the FAA has recognized our laboratory's over 70 years of aviation research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) expertise, and has entrusted us to ensure that emerging technologies are appropriately tested and evaluated before receiving FAA approval for public use.    

RFRL also enjoys a formal affiliation to conduct research and test activities under an authorized UAS Test Site through our partnership in the Pan-Pacific UAS Test and Range Facility (PPUTRC). This designation allows RFRL to conduct flight test of experimental and prototype UAS under comprehensive, proven and FAA-approved flight and ground safety processes.

RFRL is also the lead for the Mississippi UAS Partnership, a consortium that recently won designation as the Department of Homeland Security’s Common UAS Test Site.  Through our partnership with Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, NASA’s Stennis Space Center, the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center and others, RFRL leads cutting-edge research, evaluation training, and exercises for our nation’s homeland security professionals.

In the area of advanced composites, RFRL has created the Advanced Composites Institute (, which leads research and development of innovative composite materials, particularly in aviation applications. The ACI specializes in resin-infused composite material technologies and includes the Marvin B. Dow Stitched Composites Development Center, a partnership with Boeing, that conducts research and development of advanced stitching methods to build stronger, lighter and more damage-resistant composite components.   

RFRL regularly helps grow aviation-related companies and innovative technologies through our role as a technology incubator. RFRL has supported the development of key aviation and UAS technologies for several aerospace industries in the state (Aurora Flight Sciences, Stark Aerospace, American Eurocopter, and GE Aviation are just a few examples) by providing work areas, technical training, and access to other university assets.

Throughout our illustrious aviation history, RFRL has been dedicated to outstanding research programs, strategic alliances with industry and government, and close collaboration with academic units of the university. RFRL offers faculty, staff, students, industry, and government agencies a facility with experience and capability for composite fabrication, structural testing, UAS and component RDT&E, in-flight sensor evaluation, and flight test instrumentation and test assistance. On behalf of all of our faculty and staff, welcome to the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory! We look forward to working with you to achieve your aviation goals.


Tom Brooks
Director, Raspet Flight Research Laboratory