K-State Aviation Receives Air Force Grant for UAS Operations

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Kansas State University will develop mission planning, operations, and a disaster training center for its unmanned aerial systems program on its Salina, Kan. campus under a follow-on grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Va. The $2.76 million grant to K-State Aviation, which runs through May 2013, brings the total awards for unmanned activity to $3.14 million from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The university’s Applied Aviation Research Center will conduct the work through its Unmanned Aerial Systems Program Office, according to Kurt Barnhart, head of the department of aviation and the grant’s principal investigator.

“This second phase of funding allows us to expand our program by establishing UAS operational capability,” said Barnhart. “The first phase focused on developing processes and procedures for UAS evaluation on behalf of the Kansas National Guard. This funding from the AFOSR provides personnel and equipment to continue the mission. Projects include developing autoflight capability, sensor integration for intelligence gathering, airport wildlife mitigation research, and, very interestingly, wireless power transmission research.”

Part of the grant will be used for unmanned aerial vehicle platforms including an Aerosonde 4.7, a Wolverine 3 helicopter, and multiple other platforms for training and search and rescue.

K-State at Salina established the Applied Aviation Research Center in March 2008. The center, which Barnhart directs, began as a cooperative venture of K-State at Salina, the Salina Airport Authority and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. The center anticipates another $6 million in UAS funding based on current applications.

The center’s charter is to advance aerospace technology through the application of research capabilities in propulsion, airframe, avionics and aviation training. The center’s unmanned aerial systems programs office partners closely with military organizations and the private sector to focus on developing unmanned flight in the National Air Space and training unmanned system pilots and operators.

Barnhart said K-State at Salina’s unmanned aerial system capability revolves around three key areas: operational policies and standards; advanced avionics miniaturization; and unmanned aerial vehicle education and training.

K-State is establishing criteria for unmanned aerial system flight operations, including activity at the National Guard’s nearby Smoky Hill Weapons Range and eventually at the Herington unmanned aerial system flight facility. The program office establishes policies and procedures to enable both military and civilian organizations to fly and test at local facilities, Barnhart said.

K-State, an elite top 5 aviation university, has a fleet of more than 40 learning aircraft and more Master Certified Flight Instructors than any other college or university in the country.

The Salina campus offers a well-rounded Big 12 university experience shared by 1,000 degree-seeking students. Another 2,000 students are served in Salina through various courses and advanced learning opportunities.