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K-State Today

March 29, 2019

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus renews collaboration with Salina Liberty to fly unmanned aircraft at home games

Submitted by Julee Cobb

Unmanned aircraft will be a part of the Salina Liberty in-game experience for a second season.

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is once again collaborating with the indoor football team to provide drone operations during home games. The campus's Applied Aviation Research Center is utilizing unmanned aircraft to perform a 35-foot ball drop on the field to selected fans before each opening kickoff as well as capture aerial footage of the action to livestream on the team's Facebook page.

"Last year, we conducted our first round of flights with the Salina Liberty and the experience gave us an opportunity to explore a new application for unmanned aircraft," said Travis Balthazor, flight operations manager of Kansas State Polytechnic's Applied Aviation Research Center. "While our skills were challenged, we were excited to be in the moment with the players and giving fans a unique view of the game. As our second season with the team begins, we look forward to being a part of the energy and overall ambiance."

Flying an unmanned aircraft at sports stadiums is generally prohibited because the Federal Aviation Administration does not currently allow unmanned operations over a large assembly of people outdoors. The Applied Aviation Research Center is able to fly beyond the FAA's rules for the national airspace system because the games are indoors.

To keep safety at the forefront, the research center is only flying a drone above the inactive portion of the field and in limited cases, over the players who are wearing protective gear and the teams, coaches and referees who have knowledge of the activity. A remote pilot in command and a visual observer follow a developed concept of operations at each game and all research center staff members and students involved have conducted several practice missions.

The next unmanned flights will take place March 30 when the Salina Liberty play the Sioux City Bandits at 6:30 p.m. at Tony's Pizza Events Center.

To learn more about the research, training and services Kansas State Polytechnic's Applied Aviation Research Center provides, contact Balthazor at 785-833-2152, ext. 105, or travisb@k-state.edu.

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