UND, Sensurion Aerospace establish UAS Pipeline Program

By Emily Aasand | May 12, 2015

A recent collaboration between Sensurion Aerospace and the University of North Dakota has resulted in a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) Pipeline Program that’s designed to provide career-building opportunities for graduates of UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

“We are thrilled to have access to top graduates from the country’s pre-eminent aerospace training program,” said Joe Burns, Sensurion CEO. “Our goal is to train and develop employees, retain top talent and grow future leaders.”

The Pipeline Program establishes a framework for broader collaborative efforts in the UAS arena, Sensurion said. A joint effort between the Sensurion Aerospace Training Department and UND Aerospace will formulate future curriculum recommendations, stay abreast of regulatory issues and partner on new education, training and internship programs.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our graduates, UND, and Sensurion,” said Al Palmer, director of UND Center of Excellence for UAS Research, Education, and Training.

“This will generate tremendous opportunities for both UND and Sensurion,” said Mark Hastings, chief UAS pilot, UND Aerospace. “We are excited to be at the forefront of the burgeoning field to UAS.”

In April, UND student, Kristopher Chacula, was presented with the first-ever UAS training scholarship. The scholarship, given to a senior graduating with a major in UAS, will provide both ground and flight training that is required for factory training in Sensurions’s MAGPIE MP-1.

“We recognize the hard work, the career-minded diligent efforts, and commitment to making the UAS industry the best it can be,” said Dan Johnson, Sensurion vice president for business development. “We sincerely value the relationship we have with UND and look forward to supporting their program and students for many years to come.”

Chacula’s training curriculum for the Minnesota-based company will include classroom instruction focusing on systems, operations and field maintenance; flight training that will put him side by side with a flight instructor at the controls of the MP-1; and operational training involving the aircraft’s Ground Control System.

Chacula is currently an intern with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and was previously a console operator for UND and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration operating the International Space Station Agricultural Camera.

In March, Sensurion partnered with Blue-Chip UAS to provide UAS services across the oil and gas, wildlife, and agriculture and aerial photography industries under a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration UAS exemption.

Blue-Chip is prominent in the oil and gas industry right now, utilizing the Magpie to gain seismic collation data for oil and gas exploration.

“We have a client that we’re working with to monitor infrastructure—looking at well heads, oil pumps and pipelines—to look at some of the efficiencies,” said Clint Stevens, executive director and cofounder of Blue-Chip UAS.

The Magpie has a 6-foot wingspan, weighs 5.5 pounds and can carry up to five pounds of payload.

“What’s unique about this aircraft is that it’s the first FAA certified through its special airworthiness certificate, which they accomplished in conjunction with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems test site,” said Stevens.


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