Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Defense contractor to open office on Wichita State campus as part of partnership

By David Schwartz
Published: July 14th, 2020

Navatek LLC, a contractor that conducts research for U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Defense and NASA, is opening an office on the Wichita State University campus this fall as part of a collaborative partnership. That collaboration will involve applied research and hands-on learning opportunities for students, while also helping diversify the local economy.

Some of the research will explore using inflatable wing materials and structures to extend the range that airborne personnel can travel in squirrel wingsuits. The effort promises to open up a whole new set of mission possibilities using the lightweight flight suits.

Inflatable technology will also be explored for use in wings and structures of lighter, smaller unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” and in designs of new space habitats for NASA. The Navatek-WSU team will perform research into new materials, structures, fabrication and deployment techniques, and the aerodynamic performance of prototypes.

Navatek and Wichita State have signed an eight-year memorandum of understanding outlining the research and recruitment partnership. Navatek has signed a lease for on-campus office space and plans to hire full-time engineers and scientists, including a director, as well as a half-dozen WSU students as part of an ongoing applied learning program.

The company’s investment will top $1 million in wages and facilities for the new WSU campus office in the first phase of the partnership, which will focus on developing a novel air vehicle concept for special operations. Navatek and WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) have made multiple outstanding joint research proposals to government agencies for additional funding, including a $2.6 million proposal for a prototype robotic advanced manufacturing system for the Marine Corps that would operate in an austere, forward-deployed environment.

“As part of our growth and diversification strategy, Navatek is thrilled to collaborate with one of the pre-eminent aerospace, innovation, aviation and research universities in the country, which also happens to have exceptional capabilities in the areas of robotics, materials and manufacturing,” said Martin Kao, CEO of Navatek. “Beyond these technical capabilities, the team at WSU and NIAR have been fantastic partners to work with, demonstrating an entrepreneurial vision and business-friendly practices that are rare for a university.”

The co-location, Kao added, is expected to be a boon to joint research, “but also to recruit and retain their graduates right here in Wichita, who will be the drivers of the growth of our company in a matter of a few short years.”

Dr. Jay Golden, president of Wichita State, said “the investment Navatek is making in Wichita State is one of many steps toward our priorities of not only recruiting, but retaining top talent in Wichita, while offering our students tremendous applied learning opportunities. This partnership underpins the advances that WSU has made in robotics and smart manufacturing, which ultimately will improve our country’s defense systems.”

“Partnering with Navatek on new research for the defense department is a unique opportunity to build our combined applied research capabilities for the military, especially with its long history of working with the Navy. Navatek’s presence in Wichita will be a huge boost to our defense-industry diversification,” noted John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president for industry and defense programs and NIAR executive director.

Source: Salina Post

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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