After dark: Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus approved to conduct UAS flight operations at night

By Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus has previously only been authorized to fly unmanned aircraft during the day, whether for research or in professional and undergraduate flight training. The campus has now received approval from the FAA to operate UAS after dark.

The Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is expanding its unmanned aircraft systems capabilities to now include flight operations after dark.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s Applied Aviation Research Center, which houses the unmanned aircraft systems research program, has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct UAS flights at night. It was granted a special waiver because flying unmanned aircraft after the sun sets is currently not permitted under the FAA’s Part 107 rule – the regulatory framework for civil and commercial small UAS operations. In addition to the campus’s research sector, the night flight waiver will be utilized in commercial flight training courses and in forthcoming curriculum in the UAS degree option.

“Having the ability to fly unmanned aircraft at night is a significant asset to our program, adding another layer to the state-of-the-art training we provide industry partners and students and allowing us to retain our status as a leader in applied UAS research,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center.

“Initially, the waiver request was motivated by an ongoing research project with Westar Energy,” Carraway said, “but its benefits will have an impact on a multitude of contributions this campus makes to the unmanned industry.”

Accompanying any research work that requires data collected by UAS at night is the authorization to instruct unmanned flight training classes after dark, both for professionals and undergraduate students. The Applied Aviation Research Center offers several different UAS short courses and is introducing night operations into its commercial remote pilot training course starting June 23. The course addition includes two hours of classroom instruction covering flight basics at night, necessary waivers and exemptions for night flight and how to set up a night operation. Following the classroom instruction, students receive one hour of hands-on night flight training using a S-1000 multirotor aircraft out in the field.

In undergraduate academics, Kansas State Polytechnic offers two UAS degree options and one minor, with the UAS flight and operations concentration requiring a series of multirotor and fixed-wing flight ratings as part of the curriculum. Faculty members are currently creating new training methods that would add night operations into one of the labs for the advanced multirotor course, giving students experience with mission planning, flight cues and recovery methods after dark.

“A key element of the way we train our students is exposing them to different scenarios that they might encounter in industry as they leave school, so the more situations you can introduce them to, the better off they are going to be,” said David Burchfield, UAS teaching assistant professor and degree option coordinator at Kansas State Polytechnic. “There are an increasing number of night applications for UAS, such as search and rescue, aerial photography and ag mapping, and as time goes on, students are more likely to be working in those conditions. It is just another tool in their tool box to take with them to industry.”

The UAS degree option intends to integrate night flight training exercises starting this fall.

To inquire about UAS opportunities with the campus’s Applied Aviation Research Center, contact Carraway at 785-826-7170 or kcarraway@k-state.edu. For professional UAS training offerings, contact Kansas State Polytechnic’s professional education and outreach office at 785-826-2633 or profed@k-state.edu. To learn more about the UAS academic degree options, contact the campus’s admissions office at 785-826-2640 or polytechnic@k-state.edu.

Unmanned aircraft systems student lands summer internship at NASA

By Julee Cobb

Kendy Edmonds, senior in UAS flight and operations and UAS design and integration, Valley Falls, has been selected for a summer internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Kendy Edmonds, a senior at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, is spending the summer advancing unmanned aircraft systems technology at the nation’s best-known entity for space exploration.

Edmonds, Valley Falls, who is double majoring in unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, flight and operations and UAS design and integration, has been selected for an internship with NASA where she is focusing on data management of small UAS. Based at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which is NASA’s first space flight complex established in 1959, Edmonds hopes to gain insight and experience in creating a streamlined process for collecting, storing and managing UAS data, including best practices in organizing and labeling the digital information as well as how long it should be saved and what can be deleted.

As a data processing assistant in the Applied Aviation Research Center, or AARC, at Kansas State Polytechnic, Edmonds said it is imperative for the UAS industry to have a proper system of gathering and safely maintaining data so that information about unmanned aircraft and any incidents in the field can be reported and recorded to continue improving the technology. Accurate data management also prevents the onset of dark data, which refers to information that fails to get used for a purpose.

“I can’t wait to see what kind of data they are gathering, what they are using it for and how their management system works,” Edmonds said before starting her internship June 5. “NASA is such a substantial organization with so much innovation, it will be fascinating to see how they are tackling the UAS data challenge.”

Kurt Carraway, left, UAS executive director and Edmonds’ supervisor at the Applied Aviation Research Center, says she is a “role model and outstanding example of what leadership…is all about.”

The position at Goddard Space Flight Center will be Edmonds’ first internship — she has previously spent her summers in college working at the Applied Aviation Research Center. And it is this experience along with her involvement on campus that her supervisor believes helped her stand out from the rest of the applicants and will provide her with the necessary tools to succeed.

“Since joining our team, Kendy has impressed me with her quick ability to pick up the highly technical elements of photogrammetry and data analysis. In addition to her role at AARC, she has served as a flight instructor to her underclassmen and the president of the UAS club, all while continuing to excel academically,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at Kansas State Polytechnic. “NASA hires the best and Kendy’s selection is indicative of the type of person she is. I am confident she will continue to be a role model and an outstanding example of what leadership in aviation is all about.”

“I am truly humbled by this opportunity,” Edmonds said. “I know I’ll only be there for 10 weeks, but I want to be challenged. I want to do something huge, something groundbreaking!”

Edmonds will complete her internship at NASA on Aug. 11.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program expands Part 107 short course to Dallas, May 12-14

By Julee Cobb

Travis Balthazor, UAS flight operations manager for Kansas State University’s Applied Aviation Research Center, prepares students for the written FAA exam during a Part 107 training course.

The nationally ranked unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is taking its Part 107 preparation course on the road and heading south.

Designed to help professionals successfully complete the Federal Aviation Administration’s new remote pilot in command certification, Kansas State Polytechnic is offering a UAS commercial pilot training course in Dallas from Friday, May 12, through Sunday, May 14. It will focus specifically on preparing attendees to pass the FAA’s Part 107 written test, which is required for anyone who wants to operate an unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes and does not have a manned pilot certificate. The UAS commercial pilot training course complements the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual conference, called AUVSI Xponential 2017, which is in Dallas earlier that week.

“Since the UAS program was established on K-State’s Polytechnic Campus 10 years ago, it’s been aim toward helping broaden the commercialization of the industry, so expanding our reach to another state is a significant contribution to that goal,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of Kansas State University’s Applied Aviation Research Center, which is on the Polytechnic Campus. “This course is perfect for any professional who wants to fly an unmanned aircraft for commercial operations and needs to pass the FAA’s Part 107 exam because it explores complex topics covered in the test that those outside the aviation industry might not understand. It also provides a personalized experience where interested UAS operators can connect with our program experts and have their questions answered immediately.”

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