New all-weather lab enables MSU researchers to test drone flights in rain, wind

March 12, 2024

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The winds of change are blowing in Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory.

 Teaming with MSU’s Department of Aerospace Engineering in a new, first-of-its-kind inclement weather laboratory, flight lab researchers will soon test drone activity in various simulated weather conditions. The research has significant commercial applications, including deliveries by uncrewed aircraft systems, commonly known as drones.

“In Mississippi, we often experience different types of weather daily,” said Jason Keith, dean of MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering. “This research will better equip our nation’s autonomous air transportation to handle these dynamic changes, which will become even more important in the future as we rely on drones for product deliveries and personal air transport.”

Shreyas Narsipur, an MSU assistant professor of aerospace engineering who serves as the project’s principal investigator, said the facility offers researchers full control and simulation of various wind conditions, precipitation types and other weather parameters, like visibility, to test drones and other systems.

The research will help establish baseline safety and performance standards to inform regulations by agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Inclement weather is a major hurdle for commercializing drones, especially for applications like package delivery that require low-altitude flight near the ground where weather effects are strongest,” Narsipur said. “There are no established performance or safety standards for operating drones and other aircraft in inclement weather due to the lack of data. This lab will change that.”

The new lab, expected to become operational later in 2024, is made possible by a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST.

“This grant expands both our and the aerospace engineering department’s research capabilities in applied aerodynamics research,” said Caden Teer, associate director of research engineering at the Raspet flight lab. “As the FAA’s Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Safety Research Facility, Raspet is developing this system as a part of the lab’s 20-year research plan in preparation for further weather and flight research as uncrewed aircraft systems become more prevalent in the National Airspace System.”

The NIST grant was secured through MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development and with support from U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

The lab will feature an open-air wind tunnel, equipped with advanced control capabilities to generate wind profiles, including gusts, shears and turbulence. An integrated precipitation system will allow simulation of rain, from fine mist to heavy downpours.

The large scale of the Raspet facility, located at the George M. Bryan Airport, will allow testing of full-scale drones and systems, not just small-scale models. Updates will enable fog, dust, and snow simulations.

“No other existing facility provides this level of control over wind conditions and precipitation types,” Narsipur said. “This lab will enable truly commercializing applications, like drone deliveries, by providing a basis for optimum design methodologies and certification.”

He said the new lab will allow Mississippi State to expand its role as a regionally and nationally significant research and testing hub.

Teer added, “Beyond traditional aerospace applications, this facility is envisioned to be used as a research tool across multiple disciplines—sensor development, system environmental testing, human factors studies, agricultural spray coverage analysis, pathogen spread, and beyond. Raspet and ASE will operate and maintain this asset for researchers of all disciplines of study.”

Julie Jordan, MSU’s vice president for Research and Economic Development, said university leaders are excited for MSU’s academic units and research centers to stay at the forefront of research capabilities.

“Such a facility demonstrates MSU’s commitment to meeting the research and development needs of our governmental and industry partners for years to come,” Jordan said.

Bagley College of Engineering and its Department of Aerospace Engineering are both online and can be found on Facebook, X, Instagram and YouTube.  Raspet Flight Research Laboratory is online at

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

By Camille Carskadon