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KSU Unmanned Aerial Systems -- "Team Spycat"

The Kansas State Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) Team is a student group focused on the utilization of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) to solve complex missions.  In particular, the group competes in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) sponsored SUAS competition.   For this competition, teams are asked to implement an unmanned system capable of transmitting information back and forth to a ground station for data processing.

The team consists of various engineering disciplines including Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science. The team continues to increase in size and is expanding its budget rapidly, allowing for many more opportunities for students to get involved and contribute to developing a high-functioning autonomous vehicle. Below is a more detailed explanation of the competition requirements, how the UAS team here at KSU divides the work, where students might fit in!

The following are all target objectives for the mission:

  1. Autonomous takeoff/landing
  2. Autonomous control with in-flight re-tasking
  3. Autonomous target identification
  4. Real Time Actionable intelligence

To solve these mission objectives, the team has split up resources across the following dedicated groups:

  • Autopilot
  • Camera
  • Computing/Transmission
  • Data Analysis
  • Airframe
  • Systems Integration
  • Peripheral Equipment
  • Fundraising

The goal of the autopilot group is to implement a method for controlling the airframe during flight.  In order to accomplish this, the group investigates current autopilot systems, sensor integration methods, software development, and communication methods.

The camera group looks for ideal camera solutions, with selection of lenses, hardware, and mounting configuration all being important facets.  This group must also work closely with the computing group, with whom they must be directly integrated.  Computing requirements include transmission, RF receiving, collection of raw image data, and management of camera utilities.

Data analysis works closely with the computing group to implement on board target recognition.  Most of this work is done in OpenCV, a set of C- programming libraries used for computer vision applications.  Besides recognition of targets, the group hopes to identify color, orientation, GPS position, shape, as well as an alpha-numeric character on the target.

A special group dealing with structural facets of the plane heads the airframe group.  This group has a broad range of responsibilities, ranging from the design, build, and modification of a flight plane.  Presently, the group is investigating a launching mechanism as a means to control takeoff procedures.

Besides the fundamental design subgroups, a number of support groups focus on the team and its general needs, looking at various problems along the way.  The systems integration team is concerned with bringing the entire project together.  While each group looks at their particular piece of the puzzle, it is up to the systems team to integrate all the information, and work collectively to solve issues in which one component must compete with another for resources such as battery life or computing resources.

The peripheral group also works to solve issues centered around the competition.  Issues currently being addressed include components for securing the aircraft for safe transportation, developing a mobile electronic ground station, and power solutions for running the ground station.

The last support group, fundraising, takes care of the administrative details of the team.  While this is overall a team effort, specific members of the team focus on communicating team goals to companies in related fields, with the ultimate goal of procuring support, be it by donations of equipment or funding.

Apart from the actual building and development of the UAS comes the requirement of funding out project. The fundraising group is tasked with outreaching to local companies and those that have a specific interest in unmanned systems. In addition to outreaching, the fundraising group makes presentations to colleges, departments, and SGA for funding requests.

The team has students from different engineering disciplines in each separate group that all contribute towards a working component. Also, because of the complexity and dependency of each part on one another, each student will get to interact with every other group of the system to truly understand all the operations that will occur and become familiar with a real-world design experience.

For more information about the UAS Design team, feel free to contact the club President, Matt Roselli, at mroselli@ksu.edu, or the faculty advisor, Dr. J Garth Thompson, jgt@ksu.edu