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Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506
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Sources: Kurt Barnhart, 785-826-2972, kurtb@k-state.edu;
Josh Brungardt, 785-826-7170, jjb1128@k-state.edu
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-2535.
News release prepared by: Natalie Blair, 785-826-2642, nblair@k-state.edu

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

K-STATE SALINA'S UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS PROGRAM BUILDING MOMENTUM

SALINA, Kan. -- Kansas State University at Salina's unmanned aerial system program office is rapidly developing expertise in a number of critical areas for integrating pilotless flight into the controlled national air space.

"We are quickly establishing the infrastructure and operational readiness for various unmanned aircraft missions," said Kurt Barnhart, director of K-State's applied aviation research center, which houses the unmanned aircraft system program office.

With nearly $3.7 million in grants, K-State Salina's research projects include airspace integration, avionics and payload integration, collision avoidance, wireless power transfer, and developing concepts for an airport wildlife mitigation project. The research team includes 15 full- and part-time employees.

The funding also has provided commercial, off-the-shelf equipment to establish basic readiness, including the Piccolo UAS Autopilot system; a vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial system; a stabilized camera gimbal payload system; a fixed-wing unmanned system; and an Aerosonde Mark 4.7.

Features of this key equipment includes:

* The Wolverine III, a fully autonomous three-bladed electric helicopter with long endurance, produced by Kansas-based company Viking Aerospace. It includes the vertical take-off and landing vehicle, the ground control station and all supporting equipment.

"This was a collaborative effort with Viking Aerospace to design a long endurance three-bladed helicopter," said Josh Brungardt, director of the unmanned aircraft system program office. "Prior electric powered vertical take-off and landing systems had an endurance of less than 30 minutes. Through research we were able to achieve an endurance of 57 minutes with this platform."

The Wolverine III will be used for student training, airspace integration research, and search and rescue in Kansas.

* The Piccolo UAS Autopilot system from Cloud Cap Technology includes the unmanned aerial system autopilot, ground control station and supporting software. "This autopilot system is top of the line and gives K-State the ability to fly both fixed wing or rotor wing unmanned aerial vehicles," Brungardt said. "Currently the system is being integrated into our new Aerosonde 4.7, which will be used for student training and search and rescue in the state of Kansas."

* The TASE Duo stabilized camera gimbal payload system from Cloud Cap Technology consists of a lightweight stabilized camera gimbal, daylight camera, infrared camera, and all supporting equipment and software. "The TASE Duo is an extremely lightweight system that houses both a daylight camera and infrared camera in one package, which makes it possible to switch back and forth as needed without landing the vehicle to switch payloads," Brungardt said.

* The payload will be integrated first on the Aerosonde 4.7 and interchanged on future platforms. It will be used for student training and search and rescue in Kansas. "The procurement of the Aerosonde Mark 4.7 UAS platform from AAI, a Textron company, and the autopilot and gimbal camera will make the platform K-State's flagship unmanned vehicle for training and research," Barnhart said. "It is a versatile and proven platform with hundreds of thousands of flight hours in theater."

K-State is working closely with AAI, the company that manufactures the Aerosonde, and AAI's mechanics and pilots will be on site assisting with the Piccolo integration. "This partnership has also brought internship possibilities for our students," Barnhart said.

* An APV-4 from RNR Products, a fixed-wing unmanned aerial system platform and all supporting equipment -- along with peripheral support equipment -- is on order. "This is a fixed-wing UAS platform with large payload capacity," Brungardt said. "Unlike the Aerosonde, it has a fixed landing gear and can carry up to 22 pounds of payload." The APV-4 will be used for airspace integration research -- specifically class D unmanned aerial system operations, student training, and payload integration research.

K-State Salina's Applied Aviation Research Center began as a cooperative venture of K-State Salina, the Salina Airport Authority and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. The center's charter is to advance aerospace technology through the application of research capabilities in propulsion, airframe, avionics and aviation training. The center's unmanned aircraft systems programs office collaborates closely with military organizations and the private sector to focus on developing unmanned flight in the national air space and training unmanned system pilots and operators. K-State's unmanned aerial system capability revolves around three key areas: operational policies and standards, advanced avionics miniaturization, and unmanned aerial vehicle education and training.