'Mission control' stolen from NC State robotics club

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The N.C. State University Aerial Robotics Club is asking whoever stole their trailer to give it back.

The trailer doubles as mission control for flight tests and competitions.

The 25 members of NCSU's Aerial Robotics Club work year-round designing and building unmanned aircraft to fly and compete in international competitions.

Matthew Tompkins, club president, tells ABC11 someone broke into the trailer parked at the corner lot of Dan Allen Drive and Western Boulevard Saturday night, Nov. 14.

Members of the club noticed someone cut the trailer's locks and ripped off the license plate. Nothing inside the trailer was stolen, but Tompkins filed a report with NCSU police and replaced the locks for the night.

The next morning around 7 a.m., club members went back to the trailer to load it for a full day of flight tests in Butner, but it was gone.

"It does stink a lot," said Tompkins. "Especially for the people who put all the work into the trailer."

Tompkins said seven months ago the club used money from various university organizations and sponsors to buy the trailer and convert it into a ground station.

In all, he said the club was now out about $6,000 and hundreds of man-hours.

"When we go out to do flight tests or go to competition, it's where we set up all of our equipment to run our airplane," he explained.

While the club doesn't store its precious aircraft in the trailer, it will now have to replace the unit along with a generator, wired intercom systems, targets, and other items.

Tompkins said it's a big setback, but his club will pull together to overcome it.

"Well, the only thing we can do is keep on going to make it to competition."

The Aerial Robotics Club will compete at the international Student Unmanned Aerial Systems competition in Maryland in June. Last summer, the team placed 3rd.

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