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New collaboration takes flight: Kansas State Polytechnic and Kansas Wesleyan University jointly offer unmanned aircraft systems, emergency management minors to students

Monday, July 11, 2016

KSU Polytech

Representatives from Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus and Kansas Wesleyan University sign an agreement July 11 to enable unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic and emergency management students at Kansas Wesleyan to cross-register and earn a minor in the other institution's program. Front row, from left: Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic, and Matt Thompson, president of Kansas Wesleyan University. Back row, from left: Bernie Botson, deputy director of emergency management for Saline County; Kendy Edmonds, junior in Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program; Lonnie Booker Jr., director of Kansas Wesleyan University's emergency management program; Kurt Carraway, executive director of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program; Bill Backlin, Kansas Wesleyan University's interim provost; and Alysia Starkey, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Kansas State Polytechnic. | Download this photo.


SALINA — It's a disaster with casualties. An emergency management team and an unmanned aircraft systems support team both arrive on scene — but how do they speak each other's language and work together?

Two of Salina's leading higher education institutions are joining forces to tackle that issue in a collaboration that will prepare future emergency managers how to best utilize unmanned aircraft when deploying resources and to understand and analyze the data they collect. In turn, this new collaboration will teach future UAS pilots how to efficiently operate unmanned aircraft, often known as drones, within disaster sites and support the efforts of emergency response teams in crisis situations.

The collaboration was made official at a July 11 signing event at Kansas State Polytechnic. Through this agreement, Kansas Wesleyan University, or KWU, emergency management majors are able to cross-register and earn a minor in unmanned aircraft systems at Kansas State Polytechnic, while unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic now can cross-register and earn a minor in emergency management at KWU.

"This is the first collaboration of its kind between state and private universities for such programs," said Matt Thompson, president and CEO of Kansas Wesleyan University. "The graduates of these nationally recognized programs will have cross-over training and knowledge that makes them more prepared and therefore, in higher demand in their career fields."

"The origin of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program was influenced by the devastating effects of the EF5 tornado in Greensburg in 2007 and the need to support first responders and emergency managers with relevant technology that locates survivors and evaluates damage," said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with those roots through this collaboration and provide our students with another applicable avenue in the ever-expanding field of UAS."

Students enrolled in Kansas State Polytechnic's Bachelor of Science program in aeronautical technology with an emphasis in unmanned aircraft systems, which requires a private pilot certificate with instrument rating, will be able to add a minor in emergency management with 18 credit hours in emergency management courses taught at KWU. These hours consist of four required emergency management courses plus two emergency management electives. Required courses are Introduction to Emergency Management, Hazard Mitigation and Preparedness, Disaster Response and Recovery, and National Incident Management Systems. Emergency management elective courses include Damage Assessment, Cyberwarfare, Criminal Law, Sociology of Disaster, and Victimology.

"Many of our UAS students have ambitions of applying their operations skills in a way that is socially beneficial, and offering the emergency management minor allows them to further their career aspirations while making a contribution to those in need," said Michael Most, Kansas State Polytechnic associate professor and UAS program lead. "We also are proud to be able to share the multifaceted uses of UAS technology with KWU students to supplement and diversify their field of study by adding another tool to the emergency manager's toolbox."

Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in emergency management major at KWU will be able to add a minor in unmanned aircraft systems with 15 credit hours in UAS courses taught at Kansas State Polytechnic. These hours consist of three required UAS courses and two additional courses tailored for either licensed pilots or non-aviators. Required UAS courses include Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Processing Techniques for Low Altitude Remotely Sensed (LARS) Data, and Acquisition and Advanced Processing of LARS Data. The LARS courses are designed for environmental and agricultural sensing applications, but will be tailored to the needs of KWU emergency management students for the purposes of damage assessment and remote site investigation following a disaster incident. The final two courses in the minor, UAS Design and UAS Mission Planning and Operations, will allow students to build their own unmanned aircraft capable of being remotely piloted. There is an additional cost for the aircraft materials.

"We are excited about the opportunities this new agreement presents," said Lonnie Booker Jr., KWU assistant professor and director of emergency management. "It will take both fields of study to a whole new level of knowledge and expertise and enhance two programs that produce well-trained graduates for an emerging field."

The emergency management major at Kansas Wesleyan University is the only four-year emergency management degree available in Kansas. Students gain the theoretical knowledge, practical skills and sense of duty to step in to save lives and protect property. Program tracks within the emergency management major include homeland security, business continuity and nongovernmental organizations. The major offers courses that can be taken online or on campus. KWU's expertise in this field is gaining national attention, with the Emergency Management Degree Program Guide naming the university among the "20 Top Emergency Management Bachelor's Degree Programs Under $23,000 Average Net 2014." Of those 20 top schools named, KWU's degree was rated No. 8 for its quality, ahead of Arizona State University, Arkansas State University and the University of North Texas.

Booker was invited to be a panelist for the 17th annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium in 2015, hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Management Institute. His panel discussed emergency management program development and growth at colleges and universities.

KWU is located near Crisis City, operated by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, an unrivaled world-class, multidiscipline, multiagency training environment developed to enhance the state's capability to defend against terrorism threats and respond to disasters and emergencies. The university enjoys strong partnerships with local, regional and national emergency management experts and organizations.

Kansas State Polytechnic was the second university in the nation to offer a bachelor's degree in unmanned aircraft systems, launched in 2009.Since that time, the program has nearly doubled its enrollment every year and to meet the demand, added a second bachelor's degree in UAS design and integration as well as the UAS minor.

The program recently was named No. 2 on Drone Training HQ's list of the "Top 20 Unmanned Aerial Systems Colleges in the United States" and was chosen as one of the Top 16 "Best Drone Universities" in the country by Dronethusiast.com.

The national recognition is a product of Kansas State Polytechnic's exclusive accomplishments within the unmanned aircraft systems industry. In February 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic became the first entity in the United States to receive an FAA Certificate of Authorization for statewide access during flight operations. Recently, the program was awarded a nationwide certificate for public research operations.

In May 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic was among 20 universities across the nation, including the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, named by the U.S. Department of Transportation to an elite new group, the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. This alliance, called ASSURE, puts Kansas State Polytechnic at the cutting edge of UAS research in federally funded projects.

In November 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic became the first entity in the United States to receive approval from the FAA to provide UAS commercial flight training to both students and outside companies. The authorization, which is referred to as a Section 333 exemption, allowed Kansas State Polytechnic to create and conduct an extensive flight-training program for unmanned aircraft operations.

And in May, it was announced that the Kansas Department of Transportation created a new position to direct UAS industry development in the state, with one of the post's offices being located at Kansas State Polytechnic.

Kansas State Polytechnic is leading a variety of UAS research projects with outside partners, including the FAA and Westar Energy. The program has the most varied UAS fleet in U.S. academia, with a mix of more than 30 fixed-wing and rotary wing unmanned aircraft, or drones. Kansas State Polytechnic also boasts one of the largest enclosed flight facilities in the nation, allowing students to pilot their unmanned aircraft within steps of the classroom and UAS lab.

For more information on Kansas State Polytechnic's academic UAS program, including enrollment, class options and the new EM minor, contact Most at 785-826-2681 or mtmost@k-state.edu. To inquire about UAS commercial flight training and research collaborations, contact Kurt Carraway, executive director of the UAS program, at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@k-state.edu. Learn about Kansas Wesleyan University's emergency management program by contacting Booker at lonnie.booker@kwu.edu or 785-833-4360.


Julee Cobb

John Elmore


Kansas State Polytechnic

Kansas Wesleyan University

At a glance

Through a joint agreement signed July 11, Kansas Wesleyan University emergency management majors are able to cross-register and earn a minor in unmanned aircraft systems at Kansas State Polytechnic, while unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic now can cross-register and earn a minor in emergency management at Kansas Wesleyan.