Yesterday, August 14, 2018, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) launched the state’s first drone flights in participation with the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program. The UAS Pilot program, created by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, is a two- to three-year initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones and accelerating safe UAS integration.
KDOT partnered with 31 businesses, state agencies and universities, including K-State Polytechnic, to represent Kansas. The flight conducted Tuesday and all future flights will help test the capability and reliability of UAS when it comes to beyond-line-of-sight operations.
Dennis King, the FAA IPP Program Manager for Kansas and Florida, said the program will assist the U.S. DOT and FAA with creating new rules to expand safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System while creating new opportunities for Kansas and the UAS industry.
"One of the primary focus areas for the state of Kansas is increasing our ability to do precision agriculture," King said. "At the end of the day our contribution as KDOT is to work with the technologies in aviation to reduce input cost for farmers and cattle ranchers and potentially increase yield. This is going to be a big value-added proposition to all of our agricultural partners."
Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement at K-State Polytechnic, called the flight "the next evolution of what we've been pushing for for 10 years."
"It's really not going to get where it needs to be until we have true beyond-line-of-sight operations with bigger aircraft and this program pilots that whole initiative forward," he said. "This is the true threshold of the economic utility of this technology. It means for us continued growth for our aviation program. It's where the future is and we're excited to partner with KDOT to make this happen."