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Kansas State Polytechnic

David Burchfield
Teaching Assistant Professor

Research & Commercial Opportunities
Kurt Carraway
Acting UAS Program Mgr.
Applied Aviation Research Center

Kansas State Polytechnic
2310 Centennial Road
Salina, KS 67401-8196

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)?

A system is the platform, payload and the autopilot, the communications, avionics (the on-board intelligence, communications, radio transmissions), and the human pilot.

  • What is a UAS platform?

Platform is a generic term for UAS that developed from the context of the aircraft being used as a “platform” to hold a sensor. The platform, or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV), is often chosen by what type of information will be collected during the mission and other performance parameters such as range, altitude, and endurance. Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus has more than 20 different platforms to in our unmanned fleet.

  • What is a payload?

It is any device that is part of the aircraft that is used to gather or collect data external to the aircraft. Examples: Payloads consist of cameras that image in numerous different wavelengths, such as visual (often called electro-optical), infrared, near-infrared, multispectral, hyperspectral. Payloads can also be radars, air sampling sensors, radiation detectors, and many more..

  • What are the potential job opportunities for UAS operators?

Job opportunities will increase in 2015 as the FAA continues to open up access for commercial UAS to the National Airspace System (NAS). There is a big opportunity for small aircraft under 55 pounds, due to lower system cost and less risk in their operation. Among other applications, national studies have projected that agricultural and inspection applications will be a large market.

  • What is the difference between “In-the-loop” and “On-the-loop”?

“In-the-loop” is when a person is in direct “hands-on” control of the aircraft. “On-the-loop” is when a person is monitoring the aircraft during automated flight.

  • How does being an RC enthusiast translate?

Many of the fundamental skills learned operating remote control aircraft can be used top help pilot and UAS during non-autonomous flights. Even for autonomous UAS, it is important for a skilled pilot to be able to take over and be able to safely fly and land the UAV.

  • What is COA?

A Certificate of Authorization (COA) is granted by the FAA, allowing an entity to legally operate a specific UAS in a certain location. K-State has many which are used for research missions, enabling our operations.

  • How does K-State use UAS?

UAS can enable more efficient operations in many cases. They can also be used to make jobs easier and safer. We use them to explore the application of emerging technologies for various applications. K-State research includes agricultural applications, the development of missions for utility companies, advisement on relevance for Department of Transportation, and the FAA.

  • Why does our program require Private Pilot License (PPL) with Instrument Rating and a Second class medical?

It appears that the FAA will require some level of certifications. Our goal is prepare graduates with the highest level to be highly marketable UAS experts. We keep up to date on the latest FAA guidance, and will always ensure parity with emerging regulatory guidance. We also ensure our COAs meet these requirements, enabling student participation in research operations.

  • Why do we use the term UAS and not “drone”?

The term UAS is in line with the industry standard. The term “drone” often used by the media is typically associated with just the aircraft and is not an accurate reflection of the capabilities employed on these high technology systems.

  • What is NAS?

NAS is an acronym for National Airspace. It is the national airspace where aircraft fly.

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