AUVSI: Awards dinner honours member achievements

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The AUVSI Foundation Dinner and Awards Program last night highlighted some of the achievements of AUVSI's most illustrious members while also giving a nod to the future of unmanned systems: the student winners from the foundation's various air, ground and maritime competitions.

Joe Gibbs, business development manager for Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems and president of AUVSI's Cascade Chapter, was presented the Member of the Year Award before an appreciative audience of delegates in the Korbel Ballroom.

Gibbs, who has been president of the Cascades Chapter for eight months, has increased attendance at chapter events, with some topping more than 150 attendees. In addition to increasing the chapter's presence in numbers Gibbs has also organized an unmanned systems technology cluster with the goal of education of the public on commercial robotics applications.

Foundation Executive Director Daryl Davidson posthumously recognized the Academic Champion Award winner, Arthur Reyes of the University of Texas at Arlington, a robotics advocate and researcher at the university's Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory. Reyes passed away in 2009. In addition to his work at AUVSI's Student Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Competition, Reyes also organized and conducted free autonomous vehicle summer camps for high school students.

Rear Adm. William Shannon won this year's Outstanding Contributor Award for his work in advocating the use of small tactical unmanned aircraft systems in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shannon has helped field the ScanEagle, Raven, Wasp, T-Hawk and Dragon Eye systems.

The Pioneer Award went to Frank Pace, president of the Aircraft Systems Group at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Pace has engineered myriad improvements to UAS, including laser designation, aircraft weaponization, triple redundant flight controls, the heavy-fuel engine and a digital engine controller, to name a few.

The Operations Award, which recognizes a person directly involved in the testing, evaluation and operational deployment of unmanned systems, went to Master Sgt. Donny Nickle of the US Air Force Special Operations Command. Nickle helped develop a small UAS with lethal capabilities and tested the system over mountainous terrain, simulating moving and stationary target scenarios.

After the awards, the foundation recapped its five student competitions, which took place over the summer. Wrap-up videos showcased the college, and sometimes high school, students who built their own air, sea and ground vehicles and pitted them against challenging courses and objectives. Participants from each of the student competitions also are located at the Student Competition Pavilion at booth 2932.

This year's foundation awards marked the first time the event was held as a dinner instead of a luncheon. The new format also allowed for the event's first entertainment, from "Last Comic Standing" veteran Chris Voth.

For more information on how to contribute to the AUVSI Foundation, contact Daryl Davidson at davidson@auvsifoundation.org