State aviation officials plan Wichita summit on drones

Kansas officials are planning to host the state’s first public summit on drones in Wichita this fall.

Tiffany Brown, director of aviation for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that the Kansas UAS Summit will be held Oct. 15 at the National Center for Aviation Training, 4004 N. Webb Road.

Brown said the summit is primarily aimed at showing legislators and the public the businesses and resources that Kansas has in the fledgling industry.

“This whole topic of UAS (unmanned aerial systems) has been getting a lot of traction,” she said.

Brown referred to a 2013 study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group, which said Kansas is one of the top 10 states to gain economic benefit from UAS in terms of jobs and manufacturing.

The report ranked Kansas 7th out of 10 states with the most to gain in terms of economic benefit from a growing UAS industry. The report projected a $2.9 billion economic impact and the creation of 3,716 jobs in the next 10 years for Kansas from its participation in the industry.

“We’re making sure Kansas is ready for this opportunity,” she said.

Brown said the idea for the summit was born out of a series of meetings held across the state earlier this year on unmanned aerial systems.

“What is the state’s place? Does the state DOT need to take any lead on integrating UAS in the state?” Brown said of the questions KDOT was looking to answer at those meetings, which were attended by aviation industry officials and regulators, and owners and operators of UAS-related businesses.

Brown said she’s not certain how many companies in Kansas are involved in UAS, but “we’re in regular contact with half a dozen companies.”

The summit will include UAS businesses – they are hoping for 12 to 20 – showcasing their products and services, she said.

It will also serve to educate the public on drones and their safe operation. That’s an issue that has received a lot of attention lately because of a growing number of incidents of drones interfering with the operation of manned aircraft.

“That’s one of the other reasons we want to get the public out there,” she said. “The public needs to know what they can and can’t do” operating drones in the public airspace.

Brown said final details of the summit’s schedule of events – and hours it will be open – are still being worked out.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.