KSU, KU, WSU Awarded New FAA Drone Designation

Three Kansas universities are members of the new Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., recently.

Wichita State University, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas are members of the new center known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, or ASSURE, which will play a key role in helping the FAA develop rules regulating commercial unmanned aerial systems. ASSURE, which will be led by Mississippi State University, will provide the FAA and industry with research to maximize the potential of commercial unmanned systems with minimal changes to the current system regulating manned aircraft.

Congress appropriated $5 million for the five-year agreement with the center, which will be matched one-for-one by the team members. The FAA expects the center will be able to begin research by September and be fully operational and engaged in a robust research agenda by January 2016.

Each Kansas university brings a special set of resources and capabilities to the ASSURE team.

Wichita State University and its National Institute for Aviation Research have performed UAS research and testing in many areas, including low-speed aerodynamics testing for the Boeing Scan Eagle Compressed Carriage and the Raytheon Small Diameter Bomb; Full-Scale Structural static testing on the Boeing UCAS; and human factors evaluation of operator stations for General Atomics. Additional areas of expertise include material properties, susceptibility to environmental factors, computational analysis and advanced coatings applications.

With its recognition as one of the first universities in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, Kansas State University will bring an abundance of strengths to the Center of Excellence, including its experience in UAS flight training. The university’s research projects in aircraft certification will also assist the team with future endeavors in enabling beyond visual line-of-sight and urban UAS operations. In addition, Kansas State University’s deeply rooted history in agriculture research and education will contribute to the exploration of low-altitude operations in rural areas.

The University of Kansas is the lead institution for the NSF Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, or CReSIS. CReSIS aerospace and electrical engineers have developed semi-autonomous ice penetrating radar equipped UASs for polar remote sensing. UASs include but are not limited to the 1,100 pound, 26-foot wingspan Meridian UAS and integrated VHF radar depth-sounder, with a range of approximately 1,000 miles and an endurance of up to 12 hours; and the 85-pound, 17-foot wingspan G1-X UAS and integrated UHF/VHF radar depth sounder, with a range of approximately 60 nm per gallon of fuel. CReSIS engineers have also equipped other UASs with custom radars for polar remote sensing, including the NASA Sierra. Areas of expertise include UAS platform development, sensor development and sensor-platform integration, and autonomous flight control.

“Our expertise will help the FAA solve some of the largest challenges in UAS integration,” said Mark Blanks, unmanned aircraft systems program manager at Kansas State University Salina. “And with three major Kansas universities working together, the state could be a one-stop solution for future proposed research projects.”

“The three Kansas universities now have a streamlined pathway to creating and completing research projects with the FAA and could see a dramatic increase in funding those opportunities,” said John Tomblin, WSU vice president for research and technology transfer.

ASSURE research areas are expected to evolve over time, but initially will include detecting and avoiding technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; human factors; compatibility with air traffic control operations; and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crew members.

The ASSURE team consists of 20 leading universities that offer unmatched research personnel, capabilities, facilities and capacity in more than 200 locations across 16 states and nine countries.

“This team has the capabilities and resources to quickly get up and running to help the FAA address the demands of this challenging technology over the next decade,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

ASSURE’s member universities include Drexel University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kansas State University, Montana State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, University of Alabama-Huntsville, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Kansas, University of North Dakota, Wichita State University, Auburn University (associate member), Concordia University, Canada (associate member), Indiana State University (associate member), Louisiana Tech University, Tuskegee University (associate member), and University of Southampton, UK (associate member). Learn more about ASSURE at http://www.assureuas.org.

Story from Kansas State University