Source: Luke Geiver, UAS Magazine

Kansas continues to push the commercial evolution of unmanned aerial systems through state-based institutional research, federally-approved flight testing and now help from the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Agriculture.

Although the state is pushing for more UAS use, Billy Brown, agribusiness development coordinator for KDA, believes UAS implementation is not just about what happens in Kansas. “We have the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050 and we are only feeding 7 billion people today,” Brown said. “It is quite important that we find the technology and efficiencies to do that. UAS is going to be very critical in helping to feed those people. It will be an exciting ride, we need to just strap in and be able to accept new technology.”

Brown recently hosted a roundtable event aimed at bringing a multitude of stakeholders together to discuss the challenges and opportunities regarding the implementation of UAS into Kansas airspace. “We help companies to enter or expand into the agriculture industry in the state,” he said. “We have received a lot of calls and interest about what we could do to help foster UAS development within the state.”

Based on the inquiries sent to Brown’s team, and the desire by the governor to spur UAS development, Brown kicked off a series of UAS discussions in the state. The event included perspective from cattle, corn and wheat associations, along with UAS manufacturers and precision agriculture firms.

In addition to association and commercial entities, Brown said a handful of young Kansas farmers currently working to implement UAV’s into their day-to-day operations were in attendance.

According to Brown, the main challenges for every entity relates directly to the current regulatory environment. But, once those regulations become more clear, participants at the roundtable voiced a hope for state-based regulation to be in place before the regulations are finalized. “The groups want to be prepared and have something in place for when the FAA finally makes a ruling,” Brown said. “They want to ensure the state allows the use of UAS in their own operations.”

Commodity focused groups will use UAS to help monitor irrigation and fertilizer needs, he said. Livestock entities will check cows in pasture and monitor feedlot conditions. Both groups, however, are concerned that outside entities may fly over fields or feedlots and collect data that could be used against their respective operations.

Following the ag-based UAS roundtable, the state of Kansas will be holding future roundtables on emergency management and law enforcement, research and survey efforts, small business interests and finally, UAS policies and regulations.