K-State Students Get to Study UAS Operations Beyond Line of Sight


An unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) degree at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is offering a curriculum on flying beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).

According to K-State, the UAS flight and operations degree is the first in the nation to introduce flying BVLOS into a college curriculum. The campus has been granted a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform this type of operation.

“It is a significant opportunity for our students to learn how to fly UAS beyond their visual line of sight because they are preparing their skills and knowledge for the future of the industry,” says Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at Kansas State Polytechnic. “They also have a distinct advantage over their peers at other schools who don’t have the authorization to do this yet, making them more marketable when they are ready to start their career.”

This fall, two upper-division courses – Advanced Fixed-Wing Operations and Flight and Field Operations – incorporated BVLOS into their flight labs. Students’ attention to detail and safety were dramatically elevated, the university says.

“They first had to review the FAA waiver and understand how to fully comply with its specific requirements,” explains Travis Balthazor, flight operations manager of the Applied Aviation Research Center. “Students also learned new aspects of mission-planning and how to best mitigate risk in the field, including using ADS-B software, which monitors other aircraft in their flight area.”

In these BVLOS operations, the drones were flown with a ground control station linked to an autopilot system on the aircraft. In addition to training on these technologies, students also had to learn about the behaviors of the entire unmanned system in a variety of scenarios in order to maintain control of the aircraft if any issues were to arise.

Additionally, the campus has a waiver from the FAA to perform unmanned flight operations at night, which also has been added to several UAS courses.

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