Airport management, UAS students place second in national airport design competition

By Julee Cobb

Airport management and unmanned aircraft systems students at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus performed a proof of concept at the Kit Carson County Airport as part of their research proposal, “Airport Imagery and Geospatial Data Collection Through the Use of UAS,” which placed second in the Airport Cooperative Research Program’s national University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs. From left to right: Daniel Melia, Kit Carson County Airport manager; Hsin Huang, senior in airport management; Preston Renfro, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in unmanned aircraft systems; Ian Bonsall, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in airport management; Trevor Witt, data analyst in the Applied Aviation Research Center; David Burchfield, UAS teaching assistant professor and degree option coordinator; Chris Senn, UAS teaching assistant professor; and Elliot Rogers, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in airport management.

Airport management and unmanned aircraft systems students from the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus are receiving national recognition for their interdisciplinary research on a current airport industry challenge.

The Airport Cooperative Research Program, which is managed by the Transportation Research Board and sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, has selected the team of Kansas State Polytechnic students as second place winners in its annual University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs. The five students submitted a project examining an alternative to typical aerial data collection methods at airports titled, “Airport Imagery and Geospatial Data Collection Through the Use of UAS.”

The contest, now in its 11th year, invites collegiate students from across the country to propose innovative designs and practical solutions to various airport issues facing the industry today. All of the proposals, which do not have to originate from an aviation-related degree program, were entered into one of four categories in the competition — Airport Operation and Maintenance, Runway Safety/Runway Incursions/Runway Excursions, Airport Environmental Interactions, and Airport Management and Planning — and awards went to the top three schools of each group. Kansas State Polytechnic took second in the Airport Operation and Maintenance category behind Tufts University.

“This is the first time that any K-State student has entered the ACRP competition, so taking home second place is quite an honor and it reflects strongly on our students’ work ethic, ambitious ideas and ability to problem solve,” said Tara Harl, airport management associate professor and option coordinator at Kansas State Polytechnic. “I think the award also demonstrates the caliber of rigor that the airport management and UAS curriculum provides, giving students the opportunity to engage in real-world projects and gain multiple perspectives by collaborating between majors.”

The research project began when Harl and her counterpart in the UAS degree option decided to merge one of their upper level project-based courses so students could gain a better understanding of each other’s fields of study and how they connect in industry. Four airport management students and one UAS student formed a team and decided to explore if unmanned aircraft are a viable supplement to an airport’s current means of gathering aerial data.

According to the students’ initial analysis, airports use aerial imagery and geospatial data to create an Airport Layout Plan. This blueprint is an in-depth look at the airport’s property and aids in future development and improvement decisions. Images taken overhead also can help in building topography maps that show elevation differences and where issues such as puddling can occur on runways. Generally, aerial data is collected through satellite imagery, light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, or manned aircraft, and the work is usually hired out to third party consultants. As a result of this information, the students wanted to test the idea that unmanned aircraft could be a substitute in that process and possibly make it more cost effective and more efficient.

The students went on to perform a literature review and develop a problem-solving approach. Next, the Kit Carson County Airport in Burlington, Colorado, gave the students permission to use its property to complete a proof-of-concept operation at an active airport. Before flying, the team of students along with faculty members and the Kit Carson airport manager, Daniel Melia, conducted a safety risk assessment. Then, the group surveyed 550 acres of the airport’s property with three unmanned aircraft and captured 2,900 images total, which were later processed into maps in the campus’s UAS lab. The students also interviewed professionals in the industry who provided cost data for the current process and compared it with the team’s sample incurred costs, which yielded significant savings.

At the end of the project, the team of students concluded in its proposal that airport operators can run into high costs trying to obtain updated aerial photography and data collection, and in turn, resign to using old and inaccurate layout plans. The students said industry professionals have identified a need for a lower cost option, especially for quick and small area projects. They said their research successfully demonstrates that UAS technology could be integrated into the data collection process at airports and provide an on-demand option that reduces both cost and risk.

Along with a second-place win, the project also provided students an opportunity to learn how the two worlds of manned and unmanned aviation can safely merge — something David Burchfield, UAS teaching assistant professor, said is imperative in the industry and the classroom.

“The more UAS become integrated into the National Airspace System, the more airports are going to have to know how to accommodate unmanned operations in their airspace and unmanned pilots need to be sensitive to FAA rules about flying near airports,” said Burchfield, who is also the option coordinator for the UAS degree. “This is something we want our students to be proficient in and that’s why we are creating these interdisciplinary learning opportunities. Whenever degrees cross paths with each other, students are exposed to new and relevant ideas that will help them grow academically and become more prepared in their profession.”

“Collaborating with another degree option on this project transformed our education from sitting in a classroom talking about what would be cool to do to executing a project that could make an impact on the airport community,” said Elliot Rogers, a member of the research proposal team and May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in airport management, Davis, California.

The other students involved in the research project include Ryan Thomas, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in airport management, Atchison; Ian Bonsall, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in airport management, Goodland; Preston Renfro, May 2017 bachelor’s graduate in unmanned aircraft systems, Dallas, Texas; and Hsin Huang, senior in airport management, Taichung City, Taiwan.

To learn more about the airport management and UAS degree options, contact Kansas State Polytechnic’s admissions office at 785-826-2640 or polytechnic@k-state.edu.

Partners Kansas State Polytechnic, Westar Energy advance electric utility inspection and maintenance methods with drone technology

By Julee Cobb

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy to integrate drone technology into the electric utility industry.

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy on integrating drone technology into the electric utility sector.

Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and Kansas-based power company Westar Energy are propelling the electric utility industry forward by innovating inspection and maintenance methodologies with drone technology.

With a focus on increasing reliability for customers, improving employee safety and reducing costs, Kansas State Polytechnic’s unmanned aircraft systems program and Westar Energy have been collaborating over the past year to integrate unmanned aircraft into the power company’s services. The partners, whose relationship dates back to 2013, have been working to establish an in-house UAS team at Westar Energy as well as redefine inspection and maintenance techniques using unmanned aircraft — often referred to as drones — for transmission lines, power plant boilers and electrical substations.

“One of our program’s strategic objectives has been to help introduce UAS technology to the commercial market, and we are proud to have Westar Energy as a partner because this collaborative relationship is a win-win for both of our interests,” said Kurt Carraway, executive director of the UAS program on K-State’s Polytechnic Campus. “The opportunity to assist Westar Energy in building an organic UAS program from the ground up has been tremendously rewarding for us — we get to learn about the power industry while helping Westar Energy provide first-class service to its valuable customer base. We look forward to continuing this developmental work.”

Westar Energy has implemented this technology in the day-to-day inspection of thousands of miles of transmission lines and utility towers that run across Kansas. UAS platforms capture imagery of the structures to identify needed replacements and inspect completed repairs. The standard procedure for all power companies has been employees either using binoculars to examine the lines and towers, or riding lifts high into the air —which can be dangerous.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Westar Energy has a team of employees who have completed multirotor and fixed-wing training at Kansas State Polytechnic and lead the power company’s internal UAS division. Together with Kansas State Polytechnic, 3-D mapping of substations and boiler inspections also have been explored. The Kansas State Polytechnic UAS program has assisted Westar Energy’s UAS program with developing and testing protocols, providing additional flight instruction and creating operational guides for these new areas with UAS technology.

“Our UAS program saves money for customers by making our operations more efficient and our work safer. It also makes our service more reliable,” said Jason Klenklen, supervisor of transmission maintenance for Westar Energy. “We can use UAS or drones to identify struggling equipment before it causes an outage. Drones also make it safer and faster to inspect lines in difficult-to-reach areas when crews are locating the cause of a power outage.”

With photogrammetry, Westar Energy can generate authentic images, 3-D maps and drawings with accurate measurements of their substations so maintenance in a specific area can be outlined ahead of time instead of in the field where space can be compact and precarious. Westar Energy employees have been trained how to set up an autonomous flight plan, which is necessary for the camera on the UAS platform to take photos based on either time or distance, as well as how to execute the mission to ensure quality data.

Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy’s most recent exploration has been focused on using unmanned aircraft to inspect boilers. The use of UAS inside a boiler reduces risks to personnel while allowing assessments to be conducted in an efficient and timely manner.

“Incorporating UAS, or drones, into the inspection process of boilers adds an element of safety. It allows employees to view the internal components of the boiler through real time imagery captured by a drone while securely staying on the outside,” said Sam Sharp, a researcher in the Kansas State Polytechnic UAS Laboratory and Westar Energy’s primary liaison. “Because there are no lights inside the boiler and a GPS signal is not accessible, extensive training is needed to control the aircraft. This is one of the most valuable applications of a drone within the energy sector, so the lengthy training is worth it.”

the Smoky Hills UAS Pavilion

The Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion was built in part by Westar Energy and is housed on the Polytechnic Campus. It measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and is 50-feet-tall, providing a space for accessible flight training and research.

In October 2015, Westar Energy and Kansas State Polytechnic collaborated on opening one of the largest enclosed unmanned flight facilities in the nation. Built on the Polytechnic Campus, it measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and 50-feet-tall, and employs 25 wooden poles donated and installed by Westar Energy as well as custom fabricated netting panels on all sides and across the top. The structure, called the Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion, provides a space for accessible flight training and research for students, staff and faculty in addition to outside industries for company instruction and short courses.

Kansas State Polytechnic is recognized as having the No. 2 UAS program in the nation by Drone Training HQ. The program, which began almost 10 years ago, consists of a bachelor’s degree with two focus areas — UAS flight and operations and UAS design and integration — as well as a UAS minor, research and flight operations. Kansas State Polytechnic was the first entity in the United States to be awarded statewide access for unmanned flight operations by the FAA and is a member of the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Westar Energy provides electricity to about 700,000 homes and businesses in the eastern third of Kansas. In early 2017, Westar will provide about half the electricity needs of its retail customers from emission-free sources.

To inquire about possible research collaborations between Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program and your company, contact Carraway at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@ksu.edu. To learn more about Westar Energy’s UAS division or its general services, contact Klenklen at 785-575-8187.

Going the extra mile: Kansas State Polytechnic, PrecisionHawk collaborate on UAS extended visual line of sight research for forthcoming FAA regulations

By Julee Cobb

Andi Meyer, research program manager at Kansas State Polytechnic, second from left, supervises one of the extended visual line of sight field experiments with two participants who have a UAS flight simulation on their computer and are anticipating a manned aircraft entering their airspace.

Andi Meyer, research program manager at Kansas State Polytechnic, second from left, supervises one of the extended visual line of sight field experiments with two participants who have a UAS flight simulation on their computer and are anticipating a manned aircraft entering their airspace.

As the new regulations for commercial operations of small unmanned aircraft systems, known as Part 107, take effect, the UAS program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is joining a research effort to assist the Federal Aviation Administration with potential next steps in that rule-making process.

Kansas State Polytechnic is collaborating with PrecisionHawk, a leading drone data and safety company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, to determine the risk assessment of extended visual line of sight operations of UAS. PrecisionHawk is a part of the FAA’s Pathfinder program, which involves industry partners exploring incremental expansion of UAS operations in the national airspace. Currently, CNN and BNSF Railway are the only other participating entities, with PrecisionHawk specifically tasked with examining UAS flights outside of the pilot’s direct vision in rural areas for crop monitoring in precision agriculture.

“Kansas State Polytechnic is honored to work alongside PrecisionHawk on research that we believe is crucial to the progression of Part 107 guidelines and moving the UAS industry in the direction it needs to go,” said Kurt Carraway, executive director of the school’s UAS program. “Being able to fly with extended visual line of sight could greatly increase the efficiency and productivity of UAS operations; however, it’s important to ensure this can be done safely and routinely, and our collaboration will provide the FAA with meaningful data to make that determination.”

Spencer Schrader, a junior in the UAS program, and

Spencer Schrader, a junior in the UAS program, left, watches Nathan Maresch, a university UAS lab technologist, set up a ground control station to plan a drone’s flight plan during part of the EVLOS experiment.

After establishing a working definition for operational extended visual line of sight, or EVLOS, including an initial measured distance in Pathfinder phase one, PrecisionHawk connected with Kansas State Polytechnic to collaborate on a series of controlled field experiments during the summer and fall involving volunteers with varying levels of flight experience. The studies are aimed at calculating an achievable level of safety for drone pilot response time and choice of action when confronted by a manned intruder.

“In extended visual line of sight, a pilot maintains situational awareness of the airspace he or she is flying in while the unmanned aircraft is just beyond the limits of vision,” said Andi Meyer, Kansas State Polytechnic’s research program manager. “At this distance, it is impossible to visually determine the orientation of an unmanned aircraft, while a larger manned aircraft can be seen. It’s imperative for the remote pilot in command to be able to use the electronic flight display to compare the location of each and then rapidly make safe, effective decisions on any required response. This research is needed for the FAA to understand what level of training should be required to fly in EVLOS.”

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Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center welcomes experts from DuPont, Dow Chemical as part of inaugural short course

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center hosted more than 30 students from 12 different states during its inaugural short course Jan. 26-29, which covered the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center hosted more than 30 students from 12 different states during its inaugural short course Jan. 26-29, which covered the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

By Julee Cobb

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is introducing new educational offerings for professional development and conducted its first short course Jan. 26-29, covering the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

With registration at capacity, the inaugural session hosted participants from 12 different states representing such companies as Nutrilite, Nestle, Styrolution, Green Dot and Kice Industries. The course was designed to give both new and existing employees within the particle technology field comprehensive knowledge pertaining to handling, processing, storage and flow behavior.

“Education on the science and safety of bulk solids is imperative because almost every industry has properties of particle technology,” said John Lawrence, the facility’s research director. “And after the excellent response we had to our first course, it’s evident that there is a strong demand among manufacturers to gain a better understanding of bulk solids. We are excited to be able to provide more of these learning opportunities in the near future.”

A variety of renowned experts in the field — such as Timothy Bell, an engineering fellow with DuPont; Karl Jacob, an engineering fellow from the Dow Chemical Co.; and Ben D’Alessio, director of dense phase systems at Coperion K-Tron — were brought in to lead classroom discussions and hands-on demonstrations in the center’s full-scale test laboratory. Along with an overview of pneumatic conveying, the three-and-a-half-day course also further examined challenges within the hopper. Participants were exposed to powder and solid flow problems and were shown how to prevent and mitigate a dust explosion. They also explored programmable logic controller, or PLC, technology.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center plans to offer this foundational course every six months, while courses focused on more specific topics will be given throughout the year. The center’s next class, March 8-10, will specialize in pneumatic conveying of powders and bulk solids. Registration information can be found online at bulk-solids.k-state.edu/profdev/.

The 13,000-square-foot facility – officially opened in May 2015 – was created to promote bulk solids materials handling within undergraduate education, professional development and industry research. Two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, serve as anchor occupants in the building. The vast amenities and offerings of the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center make it the only one of its kind in North America.

For information regarding upcoming short courses, or inquiries about the center and its capabilities, contact Lawrence at jlawren@k-state.edu or 785-829-1110.

Research director joins Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first hire

By Julee Cobb

Following an international search, John Lawrence has joined the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first research director. Lawrence, a doctorate-level agricultural engineer who specializes in food processing, specifically grain storage management, is the facility’s first hire since opening this summer.

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence is the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director.

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence is the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center, located in Salina, is a research, testing and educational facility dedicated to the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling. The center is the only one of its kind in North America, housing six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay.

As a key researcher, Lawrence works to solve the movement challenges bulk solids have while passing through the hoppers, or containers, in which they are stored. Often times particles can become densified and stagnant in various spots in the hopper, preventing all the material from flowing smoothly. Lawrence’s research also will focus on finding and solving problems within particle disintegration and segregation in the pipeline during pneumatic conveying.

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Partners Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy officially open one of the largest enclosed UAS flight facilities in the nation

By Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus and industry partner Westar Energy are advancing unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, education, training and research with the completion of a new flight facility.

Partners Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 21 to honor their new collaborative project – the UAS Pavilion. From left, are: Verna Fitzsimmons, Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean; Trevor Witt, UAS junior; Kurt Barnhart, Kansas State Polytechnic associate dean of research and engagement; Tim Bruner, UAS senior; Jason Klenklen, supervisor of transmission maintenance at Westar Energy; and Bruce Akin, senior vice president of power delivery at Westar Energy.

Partners Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 21 to honor their new collaborative project – the UAS Pavilion. From left, are: Verna Fitzsimmons, Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean; Trevor Witt, UAS junior; Kurt Barnhart, Kansas State Polytechnic associate dean of research and engagement; Tim Bruner, UAS senior; Jason Klenklen, supervisor of transmission maintenance at Westar Energy; and Bruce Akin, senior vice president of power delivery at Westar Energy.

The UAS Pavilion was officially opened on Oct. 21 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Kansas State Polytechnic’s campus. The space is one of the largest enclosed unmanned flight facilities in the nation. Measuring 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and 50-feet-tall, the structure will enable staff and students in Kansas State Polytechnic’s unmanned aircraft systems program to conduct flight training and research within steps of their lab space.

“As I was watching this structure being built, I couldn’t help but wonder about all the potential it would bring,” Tim Bruner, a senior in the unmanned aircraft systems program at Kansas State Polytechnic, said at the ceremony. “There is no doubt in my mind that this pavilion will provide countless opportunities for students in the UAS program. It opens the door for accessible flight training because it’s a fluid extension of our classroom, allowing us to fly right in our own backyard.”

Since the program’s inception in 2009, all UAS flight activities have had to operate offsite because of the campus’s proximity to the Salina Regional Airport. According to rules from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, unmanned aircraft – sometimes referred to as drones – cannot fly within five miles of an airport. The new structure will ensure UAS students and staff can avoid time and logistical challenges by flying onsite.

The new UAS Pavilion was built in September with the assistance of Westar Energy, Topeka, who has been an industry partner with Kansas State Polytechnic for a few years. The electric utility company and the unmanned aircraft systems program have been collaborating on applied research and training related to the development of UAS technology in and for the electric power energy sector, primarily consisting of infrastructure inspection.

“The research that is conducted through this program and now through this facility, will help us to be a best practice leader in our industry,” said Bruce Akin, senior vice president of power delivery at Westar Energy. “UAS technology can make our operations safer and more efficient, keeping the costs down for our customers. And when we can send out these devices to do inspections on power lines immediately after a major storm, it would really speed up the restoration process.”

Along with the 25 wooden poles donated and installed by Westar Energy, the facility employs custom fabricated netting panels on all sides and across the top. With the structure being contained but not completely closed off to outdoor elements, the facility does not block GPS signals on unmanned aircraft and allows flight missions to be conducted in various weather conditions. Because of the facility’s impressive size, on-campus location and multiple applications, the overall efficiency of the program’s flight operations and the students’ educational experience will be increasingly enhanced.

“My love of building things, aviation and robotics really all came together on this campus,” said Trevor Witt, a junior in Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program and the president of the UAS Club. “The pavilion is a convenient place for students to learn how to construct, fly and test unmanned aircraft, and I would like to host nationwide or even worldwide collegiate competitions in the space.”

The UAS Pavilion also can be utilized by outside industries as an arena for company training and research.

“Kansas State University has been working toward the goal of being recognized as a Top 50 public research institution by the year 2025,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean. “By having a facility specifically dedicated to UAS research for both our program and outside partners, the pavilion is the perfect example of how our campus continues to contribute to that goal. These are truly exciting times on our campus.”

Kansas State Polytechnic is the second university in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in UAS, which began in 2011, and since then, the program has nearly doubled its enrollment every year. The initial degree focused on flight and operations, and in Fall 2015, the campus added a second bachelor’s degree in UAS design and integration. Kansas State Polytechnic was the first entity in the United States to be awarded statewide access for unmanned flight operations by the FAA and is a member of the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

For assistance with aerial data collection and research or to learn more about the UAS Pavilion, contact Kurt Carraway, Kansas State Polytechnic UAS program manager, at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@ksu.edu; or Kurt Barnhart, Kansas State Polytechnic associate dean of research and engagement, at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@ksu.edu.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s Alexander uses sabbatical to improve aviation safety standards in Belize

By Julee Cobb

With aviation safety standards in Belize trailing behind many other countries across the globe, a professor at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus devoted her yearlong sabbatical to assisting the country in advancing its aviation safety process.

Raylene Alexander will host a public presentation about her time in Belize at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in the College Center conference room on the Kansas State Polytechnic campus.

Alexander, a member of the Kansas State Polytechnic aviation department since 2006, spent one year working for the Belize Department of Civil Aviation, which is similar to the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. She first heard about the possibility of the job from a former student who had spent time in the country and discovered its aviation industry was in desperate need of technically trained people.

Alexander arrived in Belize in July 2014 and was assigned with improving the Belize Department of Civil Aviation’s state safety program. The program is governed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which develops global international standards and recommended practices for aviation. Belize was having difficulty getting its state safety program established and looking for assistance. To learn more click here.

Kansas State University and PrecisionHawk developing UAS app that predicts corn production

By Greg Tammen

A research and technology development partnership between two of the nation’s leaders in the unmanned aerial vehicles industry is taking flight.

Kansas State University and PrecisionHawk Inc. are using the company's unmanned aerial systems to turn aerial images of corn fields and eventually other crops into apps and programs that tell farmers useful data about their crop and potential production issues.

Kansas State University and PrecisionHawk Inc. are using the company’s unmanned aerial systems to turn aerial images of corn fields and eventually other crops into apps and programs that tell farmers useful data about their crop and potential production issues.

Kansas State University recently signed a research partnership with PrecisionHawk Inc., a Raleigh, North Carolina, company that develops unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, and applications that manage the data collected by the vehicles while in operation. The partnership establishes the four-year project “Advancing an end-to-end solution for agricultural applications of unmanned aerial systems and remote sensing,” which begins in September.

“Our newly formed partnership with PrecisionHawk really illustrates how targeted corporate-sponsored research can advance not only private sector interest, but also the university’s mission of research, education and outreach at the same time,” said Kent Glasscock, president of the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization, which facilitated the research partnership. “Because of how well the partnership is tailored for these interests, it’s a real win-win for both Kansas State University and PrecisionHawk.”

“This relationship underscores the kind of interdisciplinary breadth the K-State 2025 vision encourages because it encompasses corporate engagement and the university’s groundbreaking leadership in unmanned aerial systems education, research and operations,” said Karen Burg, vice president for research and professor of chemical engineering. “Unmanned aerial vehicles are an emerging technology that will support precision agriculture, and Kansas State University’s expertise in building and protecting global food systems makes us a great fit for this kind of collaboration.”

Under the project, a Kansas State University agronomy expert and researchers at Kansas State University Salina are using their expertise to help PrecisionHawk create apps and programs that turn the aerial images of corn fields — and eventually other field crops — into useful data about a potential crop production issues, such as yield-limiting factor and characterization of yield potential, such as plant growth.

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Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center celebrates open house

By Sarah Hancock

The weather was wheat-harvest warm on June 24 as a new K-State research facility hosted an open house attended by representatives from more than 60 companies. Attendees came from as far away as Switzerland and as close as across the street to hear how the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina can help them better understand how to handle loose, dry commodities and powders, including the wheat locals were cutting in nearby fields.

Matt Burt, K-State graduate and general sales manager at Coperion K-Tron in Salina, an anchor tenant of the center, said he and his staff are excited about the facility.

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Kansas State University Salina’s Blanks joins representatives from Google and Amazon on international unmanned vehicle systems board

By Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Salina’s unmanned aircraft systems program continues to demonstrate its leadership in the industry with the election of one of its staff members to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, board of directors.

Mark Blanks, UAS program manager, joins representatives from such companies as Google, Amazon and Textron Systems on the board.

Mark Blanks, Kansas State University Salina's UAS program manager, will serve on the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International board of directors for 2015-2018.

Mark Blanks, Kansas State University Salina’s UAS program manager, will serve on the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International board of directors for 2015-2018.

The association is the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community through education, advocacy and leadership. Blanks is the only UAS-focused director to be selected from a university this year and will contribute his expertise of precision agriculture and other applications of unmanned systems during his term.

“With K-State’s extensive history in agriculture and our UAS program’s world-class researchers and educators, I’m excited about the impact our university will have within this organization,” Blanks said. “AUVSI is undoubtedly influencing the future of UAS technology, which will revolutionize industries across the globe. Along with K-State’s contribution, this new connection to AUVSI will, in return, open doors for the university.”

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