KDOT certifies 20 employees as drone operators
February 20, 2020
On Friday, 20 Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) employees from across the state were certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as commercial drone operators. Kansas is one of just 10 states selected by the United States Department of Transportation in 2017 to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program. Bob Brock, Kansas Director of Aviation initiated the Kansas UAS Task force. The task force works with 31 industry and university partners, with the purpose of increasing KDOT work efficiency and effectiveness. The Kansas program is additionally focused on flight safety and protecting privacy.
According to a KDOT memo issued on Thursday “This 20-person class represents Division of Aviation, multiple bureaus of the Engineering and Design Division and every KDOT district across the state.” Kansas has six districts and, planned to have at least one drone operator per district. Jewell County resides in District 2 with the district headquarters in Salina.
Jeanny Sharp, director of communications for KDOT, confirmed the district now has a certified drone operator.
Drone advocates believe it will be less costly sending a drone to inspect a remote bridge than it is to send a crew. Or for cities it is thought drones will be useful when preparing traffic reports. With speeds that routinely reach 40 to 50 mph, commercial drones can quickly and efficiently arrive at an accident location or, other point of interest and provide a birds-eye-view.
Video feed allows certified operators to pass relevant information on to emergency responders, law enforcement officers, road and bridge crews. According to Bob Brock, the drones are capable of operations extending up to two miles from the operator. Currently the drones are being used for bridge inspection, power inspection, and as a survey tool for new construction projects.
According to the aforementioned memo, Salina’s K-State Polytechnic has been a partner with KDOT for continuing education. A quick peek at their website shows they offer multiple Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) undergraduate degrees and, certificate programs. K-State Polytechnic is one of the first in the country to offer a four year degree for this new skill set.
If you’re interested in a future career flying these craft maybe check out their website at https://polytechnic.k-state.edu
This is only the first iteration of drone technology. Remember the early telephones? The rate of technological progress seems to be getting faster every year. It’s fun to daydream about what the future holds.
Someday drones will have a 50 or more mile operational range and fly hundreds of miles per hour. There may well be millions of them of various shapes and sizes, zooming in every direction like strange birds. Delivering goods to Americans, monitoring crops and taking aerial surveys.