October 17, 2016
The Modern Engineering Society’s drone flight project has been delayed for the past year. Obstacles include possible conflicting interests and a lack of administrative support from UCCS.
In August, university officials did not approve the Modern Engineering Society’s proposal for a drone research project, due to not meeting the updated drone requirements put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The chancellor will support the project, while the university does not, according to Michael Harrington, president of MES.
“The chancellor is providing support, (so is) tenured faculty; that way we can provide enough oversight to make all parties feel more comfortable,” said Harrington, an electrical and chemical engineering major.
The society has not met the regulatory requirements for a project of this size, according to Kelli Klebe, associate vice chancellor for Research and Faculty Development.
“Due to the regulatory requirements needed for such a project, we said that we could not approve this project for a student group, but could if this was a faculty project,” said Klebe.
A lack of faculty oversight holds the project back, according to Klebe.
“We do not typically let students serve as a principal investigator of a project without a faculty sponsor and approval by the dean,” said Klebe.
The university will also review their drone policy to address any issues that may arise on campus, according to Klebe.
A new faculty adviser was assigned to the project, according to Ryan Schulman, computer engineering major and vice president of the Modern Engineering Society.
Willie Harrison, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will oversee the project.
Schulman believes that Harrison’s addition to the project will be a great help in achieving progress due to his support.
Shulman added that progress on the drones will be slow, even with support from the chancellor and full available funds.
“It is hard to predict the future; my goal is to start by January. It isn’t an impossible goal, but it can be made impossible by the university,” said Schulman.
The Modern Engineering Society is working with Kratos, a security and defense solutions firm in Colorado Springs, to directly involve students with a professional business and provide the opportunity for applied engineering experience through the development and use of drones.
One of the goals of working with a local company is to build a business relationship, according to Harrington.
“The real goal is to develop relationships with local companies—not necessarily to fly a drone across campus. I wanted the society to become familiar with the business side of the engineering field,” said Harrington.
The university is concerned about affiliating themselves with an outside company for suspicion that they may hold ulterior motives, according to Harrington.
Kratos is more concerned about building a relationship with UCCS, said Schulman.
Schulman said that part of the relationship between the Modern Engineering Society and Kratos could result in jobs for members of the organization.
“Kratos wants to be able to evaluate people working on the drone project and say, ‘hey we like that student; let’s give them a job,’” said Schulman.