The Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus may never make it to the Final Four, but the drone-centered school has experienced its own March Madness with new drone initiatives this month.
Last week, KSU announced a new drone-training Part 107 course in Denver. More recently, the campus’s Applied Aviation Research Center inked an agreement with area professional indoor football team, the Salina Liberty, to capture drone aerial footage for Facebook livestreaming as well as a recent publicity event to drop the game football 35 feet to the referee for opening kickoff.
The collaboration will run over six home games through the end of May.
“A mission like this is well within the realm of our expertise, but we’ve actually never had the opportunity to implement UAS for a sports application, so we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the Salina Liberty,” said Travis Balthazor, flight operations manager of Kansas State Polytechnic’s Applied Aviation Research Center. “This new venture allows us to support a local organization and continue to bring the innovation of unmanned aircraft to our community while being able to diversify our skills and grow the services we offer.”
“We see drones as a way to enhance the in-game experience for the fans, giving them a unique view of the action on the field, so we’re excited that Kansas State Polytechnic was so receptive to the idea,” said Ricky Bertz , Salina Liberty CEO and co-owner. “This could also set a trend among other teams in our league and even within the sports industry, so we’re thankful to be pioneering the initiative with one of the best drone programs in the country.”
Kansas has scored many victories in the drone arena over the past several years. State officials have hosted a UAS Summit at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita. The event allowed lawmakers, researchers and drone firms to connect and included exhibitor displays, training sessions and mission demos.
In 2016, Kansas utility Westar Energy announced the launch of a drone program to inspect rural power lines for breakage and damage. In 2013, the company collaborated with Kansas State University-Salina to establish a drone research program. Two years later, the partnership created the UAS pavilion, one of the largest enclosed drone flight facilities in the U.S. – 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and 50-feet-tall.