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Source: Kurt Barnhart, 785-826-2872, kurtb@k-state.edu
http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/barnhartbio.html
News release prepared by: Natalie Blair, 785-826-2642, nblair@k-state.edu

Monday, July 13, 2009

K-STATE AT SALINA STARTS UNMANNED FLIGHTS WITH AUTHORIZATION FROM FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION

SALINA -- The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a certificate of authorization to Kansas State University at Salina to fly the Aerosonde over Crisis City.

The Aerosonde, a registered trademark, is an unmanned aerial vehicle operated by Flint Hills Solutions LLC. Crisis City is an emergency response training area that is part of Great Plains Joint Regional Training Center adjacent to the Air National Guard's Smoky Hill Weapons Range near Salina.

The FAA's authorization is the result of the combined efforts of K-State at Salina, Flint Hills Solutions and the Salina Airport Authority. The ability to fly over Crisis City opens the door to more extensive training in search-and-rescue operations through use of sites that include a mock disaster-struck city, crashed transportation vehicles and a collapsed building.

"This is a major step in supporting unmanned aerial systems projects for K-State at Salina aviation and will be extremely helpful as we continue to partner with the public and private entities to apply our research capabilities to this developing technology to save lives and enhance emergency response," said Dennis Kuhlman, dean of K-State at Salina. Kuhlman said the authorized unmanned flights have already begun.

The authorization certificate is a waiver that allows limited unmanned aerial vehicle flight in the national airspace while the FAA develops regulatory airworthiness, collision avoidance standards and certification requirements for unmanned flight. Until now, K-State at Salina aviation had been limited to flying the Aerosonde in restricted airspace over the Smoky Hill Weapons Range.

"The certificate is a huge step in opening up the market for the utilization of unmanned aerial vehicles in emergency response scenarios," said Roger Powers, CEO of Flint Hills Solutions, a high technology and services company with an emphasis on aerospace and unmanned aircraft systems. The Kansas company is based in Augusta.

With the authorization, the next step for K-State at Salina will be to apply for emergency certificates of authorization, allowing flights of the Aerosonde in different locations across the state, including weather-related disaster sites, within a matter of hours.

K-State at Salina's unmanned aerial systems program office is home to the Unmanned Aerial Systems Technology Evaluation Center that will evaluate existing unmanned aerial systems technology and platforms for their suitability in disaster response scenarios and train operators/maintainers. The office also will house a full surface mount technology lab devoted to unmanned aerial vehicle avionics and payload miniaturization.

The unmanned aerial systems program office is operated by K-State's Applied Aviation Research Center. The center's charter is to advance aerospace technology through the application of research capabilities in propulsion, airframe, avionics and aviation training. The program office collaborates with military organizations and the private sector to focus on developing unmanned flight in the nation's airspace and training pilots and operators of unmanned aerial systems.

K-State at Salina also establishes criteria for unmanned aerial system flight operations, including activity at the Smoky Hill Weapons Range and eventually at the Herington unmanned aerial system flight facility. The program office establishes policies and procedures to enable both military and civilian organizations to fly and test at the area facilities.

Aerosonde is a registered trademark of Aerosonde Pty Ltd. The company designs, manufactures and services a range of unmanned aircraft systems of the same name. The company is a subsidiary of AAI Corporation, an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. company.