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Kansas picked as participant in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program
new deh drone program pic web
Sen. Jerry Moran speaks at the announcement ceremony at U.S. Transportation Department Wednesday afternoon about the drone program. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

 BENTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Wednesday announced that Kansas has been selected as one of 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, an initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones in America. 

“We are looking forward to helping today’s winners unlock the enormous potential of drone operations, which will create new services and jobs in their local communities,” said Secretary Chao, speaking during a ceremony at the USDT in Washington, D.C. 

“We are looking forward to leading the way in Unmanned Aircraft Systems going forward and we are very happy to be a part of this program,” said Governor Jeff Colyer. “UAS technology has the potential to do so many remarkable things and as the air capital of the world we feel it’s particularly appropriate for Kansas to be a part of this aviation of the future.” 

“The state of Kansas has a rich history in the aviation industry and will be a strong asset to this pilot program,” said First District Congressman Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). In the first three years of drone integration, it is predicted that more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the US with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion.

“In my district, K-State Polytechnic is one of the first universities in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems,” Marshall said. “This exclusive cutting-edge education shows Kansas is leading in this industry, and with the DOT’s selection I am proud that we will continue to champion this technology,”

Drone integration testing in Kansas will focus on search and rescue of stranded motorists, explore infrastructure inspection and remote safety assessment applications for transportation nationwide.

“I’m thankful for the vision put forward by leaders Governor Colyer, Lt. Governor Mann, and our state Aviation Director Lt. Colonel Brock and for thought leaders at KU, K-State and Wichita State who have been instrumental to our state’s success in this space,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). “I look forward to continuing our work in Congress and with Secretary Chao to make great strides in safe and successful UAS implementation.”

Lt. Governor Tracey Mann spoke at a similar ceremony Wednesday in Benton. He noted the successful use of UAS technology in agriculture, something very important to Kansans. 

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 and collect data on how to safely integrate drones in the national airspace.

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. Department of Transportation regarding the expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

Kansas was the first state to have an operational Unmanned Traffic Management system in place for state agencies, all 138 airports and 37 institutions of higher education, Marshall noted. Kansas has been leading the charge for UAS development and has been a proven leader in this sector. In January, the Kansas delegation led a letter to the DOT advocating for the state to be selected for this pilot program.