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Unmanned aerial systems team takes fourth at international competition

Monday, July 14, 2014



MANHATTAN — The Kansas State University Unmanned Aerial Systems Team made the right maneuvers to land a top five finish at the recent 12th annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's student competition. This year's event was June 18-21 at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station near Lexington Park, Maryland.

The competition featured 48 teams from around the world, including from the U.S., Canada, India, Israel, Romania and Turkey.

Earning fourth place at the competition was the Kansas State team. To compete, teams design, build and fly an aerial vehicle that can autonomously takeoff; execute certain intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks during a flight mission; and land. Teams must also submit a journal article describing their design approach and make an oral readiness presentation describing how they plan to meet the flight mission requirements and precautions to ensure safety.

The university's team includes students from the College of Engineering's mechanical, electrical and computer engineering and computer science programs. Faculty advisers are Dale Schinstock, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and Garth Thompson, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering.

For the flight mission, each team's aircraft payload includes an autopilot, cameras, radios and computers. A ground station receives and further processes information gathered by the aircraft's onboard systems and provides the operators with displays that they use to monitor operation as well as derive and deliver information to the competition judges on how well the aircraft is doing on the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks that must be completed during flight.

"The main flight task consists of finding and identifying the characteristics of an unknown number of targets scattered on the ground in the search area," Thompson said. "The targets are differently shaped pieces of plywood, ranging in size from 2 feet to 4 feet. The targets are painted with different colors and alphabetic characters."

Each team's unmanned aircraft must autonomously find the targets, identifying their color, shape, character, and geodetic location and orientation. Teams also have to decipher a message spelled out by the characters on the targets.

Schinstock said secondary tasks include identifying a thermal infrared target; connecting to a directionally focused WiFi signal and then relaying file contents on a ground computer to the operators; dropping a small package into a target zone; and re-tasking the vehicle to search for an emergent target in a region given to the team operators during the flight.

"Teams are judged on how many of these tasks they complete during a stress-filled maximum flight time of 30 minutes," Schinstock said.

Sixteen Kansas State University students were part of this year's competition team, although many other students contributed to the project during the school year, Thompson said. The team received financial support from the university's Student Governing Association; the College of Engineering and its mechanical and nuclear engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science departments. Additional support came from NASA and a variety of corporate sponsors.

Competition team members included:

Ethan Koch, junior in computer engineering, Baileyville.

From Greater Kansas City: Justin Keller, senior in mechanical engineering, Lenexa; Blake Smethers, sophomore in computer engineering, Olathe; Kyle Coates, senior in mechanical engineering, Matt Don, senior in mechanical engineering, Chris Piggott, senior in computer science, Brandon Reigel, senior in mechanical engineering, and Matthew Roselli, May 2014 bachelor's graduate in computer engineering, all from Overland Park; Kyle McGahee, senior in computer engineering, Shawnee; and David Maas, senior in computer science, Stilwell.

McKenna Kelly, senior in computer science, Junction City; Steven Blits, junior in computer engineering, Lebo; Antonio Rodriguez, senior in mechanical engineering, Liberal; Garrett Peterson, senior in electrical engineering, and Sydney Schinstock, senior in mechanical engineering, both from Manhattan; and Collin Pierce, senior in mechanical engineering, Wichita.

More information on the competition is available at http://bit.ly/1naMZvj.


Garth Thompson

Dale Schinstock



News tip

Baileyville, Junction City, Lebo, Lenexa, Liberal, Manhattan, Olathe, Overland Park, Shawnee, Stilwell and Wichita


Download a high-resolution photo.
Unmanned Aerial Systems Team

Members of Kansas State University's 2014 Unmanned Aerial Systems Team. Front row, from left: Collin Pierce, Matthew Roselli, Garrett Peterson, Blake Smethers, Kyle Coates, Matt Don, Justin Keller and McKenna Kelly. Back row, from left: Ethan Koch, Dale Schinstock, Kyle McGahee, Chris Piggott, Steven Blits, Antonio Rodriguez, Brandon Reigel, David Maas, Sydney Schinstock and Garth Thompson.

Written by

Beth Bohn

At a glance

Earning a top five finish at the recent12th annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's student competition was the team from Kansas State University.