KSU Salina UAS Club Among World’s Best

K-State Salina’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Club is one of the best in the world.

According to the school, the team landed a Top 10 finish at the 11th annual Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Student Unmanned Aircraft Systems Competition at Webster Field, an annex of Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md. The club placed eighth out of 47 teams and earned $3,800 in prize money — which is an increase from last year. It was the team’s second year at the competition.

Teams were judged on a written report, an oral flight readiness review and their performance of a flight mission. In the competition scenario, teams were assisting a group of U.S. Marines tasked with humanitarian relief and security of a small island nation in the Caribbean that had been impacted by an earthquake and was being taken advantage of by pirates. Part of the mission was searching for items of interest and conducting reconnaissance.

The team won cash prizes for placing first in helicopter design, first in safety, fifth on oral review and seventh for flight performance.

Team members include:

Alex Hinkle, senior in unmanned aircraft systems, Kansas City, Kan., team captain and air vehicle operator; and Sam Lada, senior in professional pilot and main payload operator, and Mark Wilson, senior in unmanned aircraft systems and mission coordinator, both from Wamego.

From out of state:

James “Parker” Freeman, freshman in unmanned aircraft systems, Parker, Colo., safety officer; and Walter Lappert, junior in mechanical engineering technology, Kalaheo, Hawaii, crew chief and intelligence analyst.

Team adviser is Rich Brown, unmanned aircraft technician at K-State Salina.

Kansas State University is one of the first two universities in the U.S. to offer a bachelor of science in unmanned aircraft systems. The program uses a hands-on approach for learning and attaining the skills needed to safely operate and manage unmanned aircraft systems.

K-State Salina’s proximity to accessible restricted airspace creates an ideal setting for learning to fly unmanned aircraft. The Smoky Hills Weapons Range gives students the ability to gain experience in non-simulated unmanned aircraft system flight. K-State Salina is also one of only a few universities with authorization to fly unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace system.

The university’s unmanned aircraft systems program office is home to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technology Evaluation Center that evaluates existing unmanned aircraft systems technology and platforms for their suitability in disaster response scenarios and trains operators/maintainers. The program office collaborates with military and civilian organizations to focus on developing unmanned flight in the nation’s airspace and training pilots and operators of unmanned aircraft systems.