NC State continues UAV momentum after boring flight

By Emily Aasand | February 05, 2015

North Carolina State University recently held a flight demonstration of its UX5 fixed-wing unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV), a system donated to the campus’ NextGen Air Transportation institute, by Trimble Navigation—a worldwide data-gathering company with a UAS manufacturing operation in North Carolina.

“We really like boring flights,” said Kyle Snyder, director of the NextGen Air Transportation institute located on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus. “It shows that these systems are mature and that we can operate them safely in the national airspace system.”

The Trimble UX5 weighs roughly 5.5 pounds with a wingspan of nearly 40 inches. The UAV has little prep work and is able to fly for up to 50 minutes at speeds reaching 50 miles per hour. The catapult launch vehicle creates ortho-mosaic photo images from overlapping images taken while in flight.

The UX5 is one of several UAVs NGAT uses from industry partners around the nation and the state that are looking to do research in the UAS industry, the university said.

“This is an aircraft we can fly every day,” Snyder said. “It’s a routine, repeatable operation. Our ultimate goal is to show that [this technology] can be used frequently and safely, with a managed team, so that more people can start using [UAVs] and so that the state can go about issuing regulations and permits for flight. That’s our primary goal: safe operations and the ability for more people to gain access to the technology.”

According to the university, NGAT, with funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and oversight by the North Carolina Office of Information Technology Services, has operated six test flight locations across the state and will implement the state of North Carolina’s policies for commercial and state agency use.

“What we are doing is help grow an industry here in the state,” Snyder said.

N.C. State said there’s a big development push toward civilian use that promotes a strong business climate. And according to the school, private UAV companies have popped up in the research triangle and the university is helping with those developments.

“We want to make sure North Carolina is a leader in this by opening safe places to fly, using our operation regulations,” said Snyder.

In October, N.C. State received its first certificate of authorization from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Several different departments at N.C. State have been involved with UAV use and research including biological and agricultural engineering, crop science, mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering and computer science departments.


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