Raspet recognizes flight team on World Pilots Day; Meet Peter McKinley

Peter McKinley

Like most of the pilots at Misissippi State's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, Peter McKinley was introduced to aviation at young age by his father, who was also a pilot. 

Peter followed in his dad's footsteps and earned his pilot license in 2011 while he was a student at Mississippi State.  Two years later, he earned his undergraduate degree from MSU in agricultural engineering, technology and business.  He joined Raspet in 2019, and he’s seen the research center’s rapid rise as a national leader in uncrewed aviation. 

“When I first started, I worked as an engineer, program manager, and flight operations technician,” said Peter. 

Since then, Raspet has tripled in size, steadily increasing its research proposals and awards, receiving more than $20 million in new research funding in 2022 while managing 16 active projects for numerous government and industry partners.

Peter transitioned to flight operations full-time in 2020.  He’s trained to fly TigerShark, a Group 3 UAS, that has flown thousands of hours of highly successful missions for Raspet and its research partners.  Peter is also one of only a few pilots in the world trained to operate Teros, the largest, most sophisticated UAS at any U.S. academic institution. 

With its 600-pound payload and 24-hour flight endurance, Teros can be equipped with a 4G LTE cellular system for use in disaster response or other emergency scenarios. It is also expected to be the first UAS of its kind to become type certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, which would allow it to operate alongside manned aircraft. 

“It’s exciting,” said Peter. “I’m looking forward to the future of Raspet and the new research opportunities Teros brings to the table for us with its expanded capabilities.”

Raspet Flight Research Laboratory is the nation’s leading academic research center dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed aircraft systems. Raspet is the only institute in the world designated both as the FAA’s UAS Safety Research Facility and as official UAS Test Sites for both the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security, placing the research center at the helm of studying and developing UAS safety and certification standards. Home to a fleet of the largest and most capable unmanned aircraft in academic use, Raspet conducts UAS research on behalf of federal agencies and commercial industry partners, helping grow Mississippi’s aerospace sector. 

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.