Kansas DOT Nears First ‘Summit’ on Unmanned Aerial Systems – a.k.a Drones

AASHTO Journal, 25 September 2015

The Kansas Department of Transportation has opened registrations for its first unmanned aerial systems summit, to be held Oct. 15 at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita.

That event, in partnership with Kansas State University, follows months of workshops around the state about the use and potential of those UAS – also called unmanned aerial vehicles but commonly known as drones – by law enforcement, agriculture, emergency management, small business and research officials.

Those sessions began in March and culminated with an August review session at KDOT offices in Topeka.

“As we’ve toured the state for UAS workshops, we’ve learned that Kansas stands to gain $2.9 billion dollars over the next 10 years through UAS applications in agriculture, search and rescue, surveying and much more,” said KDOT Director of Aviation Tiffany Brown.

“With this summit we hope to both improve the public perception of UAS and keep Kansas at the forefront of attracting UAS industry.”

Kansas already has numerous factories and other facilities for production or support of both general aviation and commercial aviation.

The summit will highlight how Kansas is already among the top 10 states for UAS benefits, KDOT said, and will include discussion about the use of drones as a hobby or a business. A UAS flight demonstration and business development session are part of the program.

This comes as drone use has grown sharply for both hobbyists and commerce, even though the Federal Aviation Administration is still developing regulations governing their use.

Some state DOTs are also considering aircraft drones to remotely inspect high-elevation bridges or using underwater drones to inspect bridge footings in waterways.

State officials meeting with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have been holding discussions about UAS potential, including in a scheduled Sept. 27 session on new technologies at the AASHTO annual meeting in Chicago.

In fact, the small, remote-controlled aircraft are so readily available that as Pope Francis began his U.S. tour in the nation’s capital the FAA reminded drone operators to keep clear of restricted airspace around his route in Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

The FAA said those cities and their surrounding communities “are no drone zones” from Sept. 22 through Sept. 27.

“Flying a drone anywhere during one of Pope Francis’ visits is against the law and may result in criminal or civil charges,” the agency said. “All unmanned aircraft (UAS) – including radio-controlled model aircraft/UAS – are subject to FAA restrictions.”

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