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Sources: Troy Harding, 785-826-6257, tdh@k-state.edu;
and Garth Thompson, 785-532-2614, jgt@k-state.edu
Note to editor: Bryan Rogler is a graduate of Olathe South High School.
News release prepared by: Natalie Blair, 785-826-2642, nblair@k-state.edu

Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011

THE SKY IS JUST THE BEGINNING FOR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT CLUB

SALINA -- The sky isn't the limit -- it's the starting line for Kansas State University at Salina's Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, Club.

The student organization brings people from two campuses and many majors together to build unmanned aircraft systems for competition.

The club is working with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chapter on the Manhattan campus to build an unmanned aircraft system for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's Seafarer competition in Lexington Park, Md., in June.

"We'll earn points for the accuracy of our flight plan and our ability to observe and accurately describe targets on the ground," said Michael Javier, a senior in computer systems engineering technology, Shawnee, and club president. "Typically a civilian-controlled unmanned aircraft has to stay under 400 feet, but because we'll be on a Naval base the unmanned aircraft can fly up to 750 feet."

Group members also will give a short presentation on the paper they're required to write about the aircraft's building process and specifications.

But before they head to Maryland, they need to build the aircraft.

Four students from the engineering technology department and three from the aviation department at K-State Salina have begun work on the airframe. They are reinforcing the body of a model airplane made of balsa and MonoKote. A carbon fiber box will be built around part of the airframe to help protect the Piccolo autopilot system and camera inside. They also need to incorporate an electric engine and a battery that provides at least 30 minutes of flight time.

"The electric engine makes it easier for the autopilot system since there's no gas," said Shawn Hastings, sophomore in professional pilot, Berryton. "And we have to figure out the best place for the battery to keep it safe in the event of an unintentional landing, and so it won’t disrupt the aircraft's balance."

Adding to the challenge is that the completed aircraft can weigh no more than 55 pounds.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chapter on K-State's Manhattan campus is writing programming for the autopilot system and the camera software so they'll work with the ground crew's computer.

Javier hopes that test flights can start early in the spring semester, allowing plenty of time to practice.

"We'll practice at the Smoky Hill Weapons Range restricted area," he said. "The Manhattan team will come down, too. We'll need every team member available on practice days because of the manpower required to fly autonomously."

The club must follow regulations that determine who can fly the aircraft.

"Any student can use the ground system, but they need to complete certification training to be pilot in command of the aircraft," said Troy Harding, associate professor of computer systems engineering technology at K-State Salina and the club adviser.

That certification training can be completed through classes offered at K-State Salina through the unmanned aircraft systems program. All seven members of the club are currently taking the classes or will begin them soon, and not just so that they can fly at the competition.

"By starting now we can grow with the field," said Brock Bowen, freshman in professional pilot, Topeka. "And you can stay on the ground and fly these planes."

The following students are also assisting with the project as members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chapter on the Manhattan campus, or of the K-State Salina UAS Club, who are indicated:

From Greater Kansas City: Nick Clattenburg, senior in mechanical engineering, Lenexa; Tim Mourlam, graduate student in mechanical engineering, Mission; and Bryan Rogler, senior in mechanical engineering, Olathe.

Joel Christiansen, junior in electrical engineering, Lawrence; Amy Howell, senior in mechanical engineering, Linn; Nathan Ellis, senior in engineering technology and professional pilot, Lucas, K-State Salina UAS Club.

From Manhattan: Nathan Reichenberger, sophomore in computer engineering; Jacob Wagner, junior in mechanical engineering; and Johana Wiesner, graduate student in industrial engineering.

Shawn Georg, senior in mechanical engineering, and Brandon Lackey, junior in electrical engineering, both from Sabetha; Cathy Mages, senior in engineering technology and professional pilot, and member of the K-State Salina UAS Club, and Sean Young, senior in mechanical engineering, both from Salina; Shawn Lueger, senior in mechanical engineering, Seneca; Ray Scheufler, senior in computer engineering, Sterling; Jeremy Taylor, sophomore in mechanical engineering, Ulysses; Brian Simonson, junior in computer science, and Daniel Simonson, junior in mathematics, both from Wakefield; Jacob Kongs, sophomore in computer engineering, Washington.

From Wichita: Jamie Arnel, freshman in professional pilot and K-State Salina UAS Club member; Nathan Feldkamp, junior in computer science; and Luke Hirschler, sophomore in mechanical engineering.

From out of state: Jeremy Bushnell, freshman in professional pilot, Colorado Springs, Colo., K-State Salina UAS Club; Eric Johnson, graduate student in mechanical engineering, Caldwell, Idaho; and Brian Blankenau, sophomore in mechanical engineering, Lincoln, Neb.

From out of country: and Aman Srivastava, freshman in electrical engineering, New Delhi, India.