UAS Research

Kansas State University Aerospace and Technology Campus's Applied Aviation Research Center provides high-quality research to promote the commercialization of UAS. Kansas State University is recognized by the FAA as an expert in the UAS industry and has been part of numerous research projects advising rules and regulations. The campus has been a founding core member of the FAA UAS Center of Excellence for UAS Research (ASSURE) since 2015.

The AARC serves as Kansas State University’s UAS research and development (R&D) facility focused on opportunities to promote the commercialization and integration of UAS into the National Airspace System. The state-of-the-art research center is equipped to conduct a variety of projects for Federal agencies, State agencies, and commercial customers and end users. Agencies sponsoring applied aviation research include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), National Institute of Standards (NIST), Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), and commercial customers from many sectors.

Research Focus Areas

AARC has the following specialized focus areas for UAS research:

  • Flight techniques and analysis for UAS operations
  • UAS communications, navigation, and surveillance for line of sight and beyond visual line of sight use cases
  • UAS concept of operation (CONOP) development
  • Airspace assessment and analysis
  • Airman (aircrew) training, certification, and standards development
  • Human factors and human-in-the-loop simulations
  • UAS airworthiness certification, system validation & verification testing to include flight test
  • UAS security and security-enabled operations
  • Aviation safety, including UAS safety risk management/safety management systems and specific operations risk assessment
  • UAS system of systems (SOS) engineering and integration
  • Remote sensing and data analytics
  • Emergency management, emergency preparedness, and disaster response with UAS
  • Large scale UAS demonstrations (e.g. BVLOS and night operations)

Additionally, the AARC conducts research with commercial and industry partners for:

  • Linear and vertical infrastructure inspections (power, oil, civil engineering)
  • Remote aerial imagery acquisition for the mapping sciences
  • Land survey and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • UAS-related industry standards development (i.e. ASTM)
  • Aircraft modification and sensor payload integration
  • Systems engineering and design
  • Fire services and forestry
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Precision agriculture

The AARC strives to promote UAS commercialization by aligning itself with opportunities to enhance engineering efforts to mature technology by operationalizing emerging aircraft and associated sensor technologies with safety at the forefront of every executable plan.

Highlighted Research Projects

The following is a curated list of recent research projects that AARC has led or supported. External links are provided for more information on the projects.

Project: (A41) A11L.UAS.83: Investigate and Identify the Key Differences Between Commercial Air Carrier Operations and Uncrewed Transport Operations

Sponsor: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Performing Universities: Kansas State University (Lead), University of North Dakota, The Ohio State University, University of Alaska, North Carolina State University

More information

The vision to revolutionize mobility within metropolitan areas and beyond is one of the new frontiers in modern aviation. Building on the gradual successes of Part 135 applications under the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP), now called their Beyond program, paving the way to uncrewed air cargo followed eventually by uncrewed passenger transport. Project objectives include by working with the public to identify and address the key differences between uncrewed and manned operations, opportunities, and challenges ahead underlying this likely development. The passenger transportation network ecosystem and its associated technologies are likely to be among the most complex aviation has ever seen and the opportunities to facilitate the full integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) are significant. The FAA seeks to understand this environment, analyze the differences, and as they compare to traditional air transportation. Survey analyses along with developing timelines will enhance decision making and the research will highlight anticipated needs of the FAA to support further integration of UAS in air transportation operations in and across metropolitan areas including suburbs and exurbs. This research is on-going with preliminary results expected in October of 2022.

Project: (A46) A11L.UAS.88: Validation of Visual Operation Standards for Small UAS (sUAS)

Sponsor: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Performing Universities: Kansas State University (Lead), Wichita State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina, State University

More information

The research will measure visual observer and remote pilot (VO/RP) performance in avoiding other aircraft and hazards, identify and quantify failure modes, and inform recommendations for training standards. The research will help the FAA and industry consensus standards bodies, such as ASTM, to better understand the safety performance and challenges associated with VO/RP visual line of sight operations to include EVLOS. EVLOS concepts are where the small unmanned aircraft is beyond the visual range of an observer, but manned aircraft are still within visual detection range. Research outcomes may also potentially inform recommendations for future regulatory updates to Part 107. The experimental phase of this research is expected to occur in August of 2022.

Project: (A45) A11L.UAS.87: Shielded UAS Operations

Sponsor: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Performing Universities: University of North Dakota, Kansas State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University

More information

Certain small UAS (sUAS) Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, such as structural inspection, may be in close proximity to structures that are collision hazards for manned aircraft. These types of operations that are in close proximity to manned aviation flight obstacles such that they provide significant protection from conflicts and collisions with manned aircraft are termed “shielded” operations. This work effort is intended to identify risks and recommend solutions to the FAA that enable shielded UAS operations. This effort will identify risks, determine whether shielded operations can be made safe, to what degree UAS Detect and Avoid requirements can be reduced, and recommend UAS standoff distances from manned aviation flight obstacles.

Project: (A52) A11L.UAS.68: Disaster Preparedness and Response Phase II

Sponsor: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Performing Universities: University of Alabama, Huntsville, Kansas State University, University of North Dakota, Kansas State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, University of Vermont, Oregan State University

More information

This research will provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas. This research will look at how UAS can aid in disaster preparedness and response to different natural and human-made disasters. It will focus on procedures to coordinate with the Department of Interior (DOI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal, local and state governments to ensure proper coordination during those emergencies. The research results will develop requirements, technical standards, policies, procedures, guidelines and regulations needed to enable emergency response operations for UAS. Effective and efficient use of UAS in a disaster are the two primary goals of this project. This will offer an effective tool to assist first responders to save lives faster and accelerate personnel and infrastructure recovery.

The A52_ A11L.UAS.68: – Disaster Preparedness and Response Phase II will give the research team the opportunity to exercise the findings found in Phase I, A28 Disaster Preparedness and Response. Successful completion of this research is likely to shed important insights into interactions between human factors, technology and procedures, and will further improve regulatory processes and practices that govern UAS integration into the National Airspace System (NAS). This research will enhance UAS use in disaster response by making UAS use more effective and more efficient. Developed streamlined processes will drive UAS use in an organized manner enforcing airspace safety and the effective use of UAS in disaster response.

Project: (UAS 4.0) First Responder UAS Indoor Challenge

Sponsor: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR)

Challenge Partners: Capital Consulting Corporation & Kansas State University

Search and rescue (SAR) operations in unfamiliar environments present dangers to First Responders, for example. SAR operations that take place in indoor, constrained environments, such as a partial building collapse where situational awareness is critical in assessing risks to First Responders and other SAR resources. Certain scenarios can be even life-threatening if humans are sent in first to assess environments and provide information back to the incident command before inserting the rest of the First Responders on site. This challenge strives to create cost-effective UAS solutions that can promote safer initial response efforts while providing valuable intelligence.

The goal of this Challenge is for Contestants to design, build, and fly a cost-effective UAS solution that helps a SAR team locate missing person(s) in an indoor, dark and GPS-denied environment. This UAS must be easy to control, highly durable, and provide First Responders with a quality video signal needed to detect human life and assess hazards in the environment.

Project: FEMA First Responder UAS Training

Sponsor: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Performing Partners: Mississippi State University, CNA Corporation, Kansas State University, University of Vermont

The UAS first responder training and evaluation landscape is highly fragmented. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licenses UAS operators, but this licensing process does not evaluate the operational capabilities to employ the technology for disaster response and recovery. There are several organizations that offer training and "certification" on everything from UAS operator licensing to data processing. This uncoordinated and disjointed effort does not contribute to trust as there is no clear set of training standards to gauge first responder proficiency for UAS operations. Furthermore, there is no centralized, federated database that agencies can record and confirm UAS testing and evaluation information.

This project will develop and deliver training solutions to address national preparedness gaps, map training to core capabilities, and ensure that training is available, accessible, and applied at scale to cover federal, state, and local requirements. Additionally, these activities will improve the ability of first responders to safely integrate UAS into operations at pace with the vast array of ever-evolving technology transforming how federal, state, and local entities conduct operations while concurrently improving trust between collaborating agencies and the general public. Finally, this project will help remove barriers enabling first responder organizations to harness the power and potential of UAS, thereby enhancing FEMA's operational capacity.