Unmanned Coast Market

Background

Unmanned sytems are a hot topic nationally.  Unmanned systems business clusters and programs are popping up across the US.  However most of these clusters are not adhering to the principles of Michael Porter’s Cluster economic theory.  Most unmanned clusters are simply the result of state investment in a technology sector in hopes that the industry will “take hold” in the state.  But in most cases, once the government funding ends, the economic activity goes with it.  Unmanned Coast is following a more sustainable route.  Unmanned Coast will focus on less-common marine systems with aerial platforms as a supporting technology.  This approach takes advantage of diverse geographic features of the Mississippi Coast region including ocean, estuarine, riverine, and salt-water marsh environments, as well as low population

The successful DARPA "SeaHunter" is a milestone unmanned marine system program developed on the Mississippi Coast demonstrating that the capability and resources in the area are driving a nationally-unique industry cluster.

compared to the rest of the US coastline which provides a safer operating environment.  Unmanned Coast will also be targeting real-world applications driven by the Navy, NOAA, and the Army Corps of Engineers in the near-term as well as long-term goals for the State regarding environmental recovery and supporting a sustainable fishing industry.  This customer-driven approach also differentiates Unmanned Coast from other initiatives doing research for research sake without a true commercialization strategy.

Mississippi and its neighboring states, Louisiana and Alabama, possess enormous potential for economic prosperity fueled by determination and resiliency. While cultural and structural problems along with the effects of the 2008 economic downturn and natural disasters linger within the region, Unmanned Coast, with its entrepreneurial, small-business-focused, technology-based regional economic development approach is beginning to move the economic growth needle in the region. Mississippi is traditionally an agricultural and aquacultural state.  However, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves said in a 2016 public address, “We must train Mississippians for the jobs of the next 50 years.”  Unmanned Coast believes those jobs will be in unmanned systems and that those same systems will also improve legacy industries within the state.

Unmanned Coast nurtures and supports the growth of the unmanned marine systems technology business cluster and regional economy by through development of high-growth potential, innovative small businesses and partner organizations. Unmanned Coast coordinates the interaction among large and small companies, university research programs, state agencies, the US Small Business Administration Regional Resource Provider Network, and other related organizations in order to increase unmanned systems business in the northern gulf region. Unmanned Coast provides specific business services to existing companies, recruits complementary businesses and talent to the region, facilitates research opportunities, informs policy makers, and supports activities to ensure an educated, well-trained workforce is available to address the development needs of this industry. Unmanned Coast fills the large gap between state-led industrial recruitment and support for the small and medium sized companies that create employment opportunities and economic growth.

The Region

The UC region covers South Louisiana, South Mississippi, and South Alabama.  This region  is the primary area of focus.  This business cluster is geographically-driven by access to the Gulf of Mexico.  Unmanned Coast associates are able to support companies up to distances within a one-day drive.  The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes most relevant to this cluster are:  

  • 336611 - Unmanned and robotic watercraft manufacturing in shipyards

  • 336612 - Unmanned and robotic watercraft manufacturing in boat yard Supporting Areas

  • 336111 - Unmanned and robotic automobiles manufacturing

  • 336411 - Unmanned and robotic aircraft manufacturing

The SBA Dynamic Small Business Search identifies 358 companies in the region operating in those NAICS codes of which 303 are small businesses.  The Mississippi Secretary of State business database contains 40 companies registered with the State identifying themselves as unmanned systems companies. 

The region currently has a shipbuilding industry predating the Industrial Revolution.  Military ships and luxury yacht building has led to advanced composite manufacturing in the area.  These industries as well as expertise needed to build stationary ocean observation platforms for local NOAA and Navy centers have driven expertise in marine electronics as well.  All of these factors came together in 2015 when local defense contractor LEIDOS successfully tested the software for the 132-foot DARPA Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel  (ACTUV).  The ACTUV is designed to autonomously track submarines from the surface while obeying international maritime law and avoiding all collisions.  LEIDOS tested the autonomous software on a traditional 46-foot workboat which made a 35-mile trip safely along the Mississippi Coast without human intervention.  Since then, dozens of autonomous marine vessels have been tested in Mississippi waters which benefit from low population and shallow, calm seas due to barrier islands and the Continental Shelf.

According to the US Census Bureau, Mississippi’s population is majority female with 41% of the population making up other minorities.  Mississippi has 180,000 veterans.  Just over 15% of Mississippi businesses are minority owned.  Since 2009, USDA has invested nearly $23.1B in Mississippi with $3.2B in economic development, $1.9B in infrastructure, and $682M in research among other investments.  Numbers for neighboring states are similar.  Despite these investments, Mississippi remains last on every competitive measure of business and quality of life.  These regional strengths all contribute to Unmanned Coast's ability to create a diverse business cluster which has tremendous potential to create economic growth opportunities in emerging markets, support the development and growth of small businesses, create jobs, and attract further business investments allowing the region to compete on a national and global scale.

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© 2018 by Magnolia Business Alliance for Unmanned Coast