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Unmanned aircraft systems could aid in search for missing Malaysian plane

Thursday, March 20, 2014



SALINA — As the hunt continues for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, a Kansas State University Salina aviation professor says using unmanned aircraft systems could make the search more efficient.

Kurt Barnhart is head of the department of aviation and executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Salina. He said unmanned aircraft systems would be an asset in the search for the missing airliner.

Limited only by their fuel source, these devices have many different capabilities, such as electronically steered radar, automatic target identification and detection of variations in light reflectance. Barnhart also said unmanned aerial systems don't have the physical and mental limitations of humans.

"We tend to get empty-field myopia," Barnhart said. "If we're not actively guarding against that, we tend to lose focus in areas like open fields or large bodies of water. Our eyes aren't particularly attuned all the time in that situation, so it would be very easy to miss something that might be very important."

One of the primary focuses of K-State Salina's Applied Aviation Research Center is investigating how unmanned aerial systems can aid in the response to man-made disasters and natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Kansas State University is one of the first two universities in the U.S. to offer a Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Written by

Lindsey Elliott

At a glance

Head of department of aviation suggests that unmanned aerial systems would be an asset to the search for flight 370 because of their many capabilities.