Skip Navigation
Oklahoma State University

OSU startup Unmanned Cowboys launches UAV system at trade show

Wed, May 06, 2015
Oklahoma State University graduate student Ben Loh test flies his ATLAS spherical unmanned vehicle while preparing to attend an unmanned vehicle trade show. Loh and several partners have launched the startup business Unmanned Cowboys to market his invention and other unmanned system products.

The Oklahoma State University inventor of a spherical unmanned aerial vehicle has teamed with faculty and business partners to launch the startup company Unmanned Cowboys, LLC to market the unique technology. What began as a Ph.D. dissertation by OSU student Ben Loh has become ATLAS™, or all terrain land and air sphere system that can fly, hover and roll on the ground making it ideal for use by emergency responders, the military and many private companies.

“It takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane and rolls on the ground and can reorient itself and take off again,” said Loh, who has worked on the concept for nearly three years.

Loh designed the drone to be used by fire departments and law enforcement in a disaster or other emergency to search for the missing and survey damage both indoors and out. Because of its unusual design, ATLAS can fly into damaged buildings and search for victims using small cameras mounted on the vehicle. Future versions will carry microphones allowing responders to use ATLAS to listen for and even communicate with victims.

Unmanned Cowboys was launched in 2014 by Loh and fellow OSU graduate, Ph.D. candidate and former U.S. Air Force officer Dyan Gibbens from Houston, and OSU faculty members Dr. Jamey Jacob and Dr. Girish Chowdhary, the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professors credited with developing the university’s UAS graduate program. The partners have licensed OSU intellectual property developed by the group at the university to build a business around.

ATLAS is on display this week in Atlanta during the annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference, the world’s largest unmanned systems trade show. Along with daily ATLAS flight demonstrations, Unmanned Cowboys is also introducing the Stabilis plug-and-adapt™ UAS autopilot system developed by OSU’s Chowdhary. The system’s autopilot software automatically adjusts itself to the sensors, vehicle dynamics and operational environment found in a variety of UAVs, including ATLAS.  

“We’re really excited to showcase ATLAS and Stabilis,” said Gibbens, Unmanned Cowboys’ CEO. “ATLAS’s modular design is adaptable for many different situations which makes it standout for first responders, for potential military applications as well as for use in industries like the energy sector.”

Just in time for the AUVSI show, Gibbens has announced that ATLAS has been granted a Federal Aviation Administration Section 333 Exemption allowing it to be used commercially by the Houston firm Trumbull Unmanned in work for oil and gas companies, including facility inspection. Trumbull, a company started by Gibbens, is the first to receive a Section 333 Exemption for use of the ATLAS.

As Unmanned Cowboy’s chief technology officer, Loh will be demonstrating ATLAS’s capabilities and talking to company representatives about its flexibility. He has already been asked about its capability as a security UAV and by law enforcement for use in reconnaissance of situations like a hostage crisis. He also has a concept for a version to be used by hobbyists.

For information about Unmanned Cowboys and its products ATLAS and Stabilis, and to schedule a demo, visit