Kansas has tapped an Air Force lieutenant colonel with experience in drone operations to serve as its first director of unmanned aircraft systems.
Pittsburg-native Bob Brock was officially named to the position Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Brock, 49, spent 22 years in the Air Force, including postings in intelligence and special operations units utilizing drones.
“The military environment is dramatically different than civilian utilization of UAS,” he said Tuesday. “However, there’s a lot of lessons we can bring in standing up a new program (in Kansas).”
Brock said his “big picture” focus will be on education around the safe operation of drones by individuals and companies as well as maintaining personal privacy.
“We’re going to set up a system … where they have sufficient training so it’s a safe and positive thing for everybody,” he said.
His duties also will include helping to spur development of drone related businesses in the state.
“We’ve already started working with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture on a cohesive plan that will make Kansas the very best place in the country to bring manufacturing jobs,” Brock said.
KDOT also will use Brock’s expertise to explore using drones for some of its work, such as inspecting the state’s 2,500 bridges, which require “many hours and a great deal of expense” to do, he said.
Using drones to do precision measurements of those bridges and documenting them could “really, truly save (KDOT) time and money,” Brock added.
Brock will have offices at KDOT headquarters in Topeka and at Kansas State University Polytechnic in Salina, which offers degree programs in unmanned aircraft and systems.
He said he will report to Merrill Atwater, the state’s director of aviation.