Thursday, May 10, 2018

KDOT announces selection to drone test program

Close up of a drone in the grass during the U.S. DOT's announcement that Kansas was selected to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program. 

The Kansas Department of Transportation has been selected as one of 10 participants to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, an initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones in America.
The UAS Integration Pilot Program is an opportunity for state, local and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration.

“This is a terrific opportunity to explore new ways to use this technology to reduce the risks to our workers during infrastructure inspections, search and rescue and remote area assessments,” said Secretary of Transportation Richard Carlson. 

Undersecretary of the U.S. DOT Derek Kan said that Kansas has been a trail blazer of aircraft design and that yesterday's announcement continues Kansas leadership in the aerospace industry.

Kansas submitted an outstanding proposal because it gave us a chance to work with a transportation agency that supports aviation innovation," Kan said. "The Kansas application will enable long distance-beyond visual line of sight operations over a large geographic area utilizing a state-wide Unmanned Traffic Management system."

Kan said there were two big reasons the application stood out.

"The proposal utilizes extensive in-state resources and a fantastic partnership with several key agencies. Most notably, a fiber optic network to support operations," Kan said. "Kansas has deployed a UTM system across the state. This system offers an airspace management dashboard that integrates with FAA radar data. The development of this UTM is particularly exciting for the agriculture sector— and agriculture, of course, is one of the most important industries that could be revolutionized by drone technologies."

Secretary Carlson, Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann and other Kansas officials cheer when Kansas is selected to participate in the program. 
With about 140,000 miles of public roads, many in rural areas, Kansas is an ideal location to test the technology, which will benefit not only transportation but also agriculture and many other industries doing business in Kansas.

The program will partner with industry and local agencies to test the use of unmanned aircraft across a variety of applications that will help transportation departments operate more safely and efficiently, including assessing weather-affected roads, conducting bridge inspections with minimal impact to traffic and even locating and assisting stranded motorists more quickly.

Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann said that UAS impacts lives of Kansans today and that will only grow in the future. 

"Kansas has a deep history in aviation and we understand the existing UAS positively impacts our economy, and its future growth in Kansas represents a truly historic opportunity," Mann said. "The potential improvements and advancements of emergency response search and rescue will save lives both in rural and urban areas. UAS' likely effect on production agriculture will be huge. Decreasing costs and increasing yields are crucial for our farmers and ranchers as agriculture producers in Kansas and the farmers around America work to feed a hungry world."

The program is expected foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration and provide actionable information to the U.S. DOT regarding the expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

“KDOT strives to be on the cutting edge of transportation technology,” Carlson said. “We are always looking for better, more efficient ways to help make travel safer for Kansans, visitors and the commercial industries that depend on our roads.”

More information on the UAS Integration Pilot program can be found here

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