FAA approves first flight operation without ground-based radar in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Kansas continues reach new heights in aviation and unmanned aircraft systems.

For the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration approved an unmanned aircraft system flight that will solely use on-board detect and avoid technology.

The State's Director of Aviation Bob Brock said this technology will save money, make money and save lives.

"This is a brand new segment of aviation that Kansas is now uniquely positioned to take advantage of and be a leader in the country and frankly the world," Brock said.

The approval is a result of the 31-member Kansas Integration Pilot Program team's efforts to advance drone technology.

This initial operation will partner K-State Polytechnic, KDOT and Westar to fly a nine-mile stretch to inspect rural power lines.

Brock said that is only the beginning.

"The Kansas Highway Patrol is working with KDOT to find new ways to clear mishaps more quickly,” Brock said “When the line of cars and the line of commerce is at a halt waiting for them to assess the area and make sure it's safe and clear, they can do it with a drone in far less time.”

Brock added that the Department of Agriculture wants to “work with farmers to find ways to save money and be able to increase the yield of our crops."

The ability to fly drones beyond the visual line of sight will also keep drone pilots out of potential dangerous situations during inclement weather.

Landing this aviation milestone keeps Kansas as a leader in UAS and aviation.

"Kansas has a background and a foundation of over 93,000 people here in Kansas that are experts at building aircraft,” Brock said. “We've done it here, we're exceptionally good at it here, and our people in Kansas speak aviation exceptionally well."

The historic flight has not been scheduled yet, but in the coming weeks, all the agencies involved will be getting together to plan the flight operation.