Kansas takes drones to new heights

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GYPSUM, Kan. (WIBW) -- Kansas took its drone efforts to new heights Tuesday.

In a field near Gypsum, Kansas flew a drone 300 feet in the air, out of the visual line of sight. It was the first unmanned aircraft system flight of its kind in the state, and just the second in the country.

The flight was part of the the Kansas Department of Transportation's participation in the new federal Integration Pilot Program. KDOT is among 10 organizations in the country selected for the program.

Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann said expanding drone technology will benefit Kansas.

“It shows that Kansas is on the forefront of leading other states and working with the FAA to determine what the air space looks like and how we implement these technologies which, will help both precision agriculture and our infrastructure inspections, so its huge for Kansas,” Mann said.

With a special waiver from the FAA, Kansas State Polytechnic's pilots were able to fly a drone hundreds of feet in the air -- out of the line of sight and three miles around Gypsum -something forbidden under current laws.

Kansas State Polytechnic UAS Operations Manager, Travis Balthazor said, “Anytime you’re flying unmanned aircraft you have to keep it within visual line of sight other regulations that are common are flights over people are not allowed and we are trying to advance those regulations to allow for more UAS technology for the general public.”

Several officials say developing this technology will help grow the Kansas economy especially in agriculture.

“We can fly large sections of land and in a matter of a couple hours determine where the crop is performing well and where it may need some help,” Balthazor said.

This program will continue to take flight over the next two years, putting Kansas at the forefront of drone development.