Kansas hosted a UAS Summit at the National Center for Aviation Training Wichita yesterday, as the culminating event in a series of workshops held this year to support the drone industry. The event, designed to bring lawmakers, researchers, drone entrepreneurs, and interested community members together included exhibitor displays, training sessions like “Know Before You Drone,” and mission demonstrations. Discussions with drone entrepreneurs made the case for supporting the industry in Kansas.
Kansas lawmakers have thrown support behind the drone industry after being named as one of the top ten states predicted to benefit from the emerging sector in terms of job creation and economic impact. The 2013 study by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimated the economic impact to the state at nearly $3billion.
The study names precision agriculture as one of the primary areas of the potential market for drones, citing applications in drought management, disease detection, watering, and pesticide applications. The strong agriculture segment in Kansas, combined with its existing cluster of aircraft manufacturers and suppliers (Wichita touts itself as the air capital of the world) make it a promising choice for a drone hub.
Officials throughout the state are making efforts to support the burgeoning industry. Kansas State Polytechnic University was one of the first universities in the nation to offer a degree in Unmanned Aircraft Systems, an initiative of the Applied Aviation Research Center. The drone degree offers training in drone technology and manufacturing for agriculture and defense, as well as experience in actual missions. The university has an agreement with the Department of Defense which allows them to fly drones in National Airspace.
While summit participants and Kansas lawmakers agree on the economic importance of drones to the state economy, presentations by business owners pointed out that the current FAA climate and lack of regulations have made progress difficult. This is no news: the same 2013 study that showed the economic potential points out the pitfalls clearly, stating:
Perhaps the single most important aspect of this forecast is that the FAA develops new guidelines allowing the integration of UAS in the nation’s airspace. In the absence of these guidelines, this report is simply the opportunity cost to the economy (new jobs, tax revenue, etc.) of a good idea that was hindered due to government interference or inaction. The FAA regulatory process, like all government entities, is slow and unpredictable.
So far, that forecast at least has proven accurate.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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