Kansas’ rich aviation history flew even higher on Tuesday morning in rural Saline County.
Several media members, politicians, dignitaries and staffers with the Kansas Department of Transportation looked to the sky as a Kansas State University Polytechnic drone took off in a milo field just outside of Gypsum.
What was so significant about this flight was that this drone, or Unmanned Aircraft System, flew up to 300 feet in the air–beyond the visual line of sight ushering in a new era of UAS flight development. For safety reasons, drones are required by the Federal Aviation Administration not to be flown out of visual sight. However, being able to fly out of sight is a big deal for the UAS industry as a whole.
Among those present were Kansas Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, US Rep. Ron Estes, as well as FAA Program Manager Dennis King for Kansas’ inaugural operation as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program that will be underway for the next two years.
KDOT is just one of 10 organizations selected–out of hundreds of competitors–to partake in the program.
As Lt. Gov. Mann puts it, Tuesday was a big day for the state.
As part of the program, KDOT will help the FAA set the rules for governing the air space for drones.
What also made this such a landmark day for many, is that officials are hopeful this new program will help farmers and the agriculture field as a whole.
Kansas Director of Aviation Bob Brock says that he sees farmers and the agriculture economy benefiting from the venture.
During the flight on Tuesday, the drone completed a spraying formation simulation to showcase how a farmer could potentially utilize the technology, which Brock says is much cheaper to do.
Also playing a key role in Tuesday’s announcement was K-State Polytechnic. The school has been selected to help with the FAA and KDOT as part of the IPP.
With UAS education playing such a big role at the school, UAS Executive Director at K-State Polytechnic, Kurt Carraway, says that it was a big privilege for the school to be selected to participate in the demonstration.
Tuesday’s demonstration marked about two years of talk to get to this point. Officials believe that there will be another couple of years as part of the UAS IPP.