K-State Salina receives statewide access for small drones

Approval is national milestone in unmanned aircraft systems.

Kansas State University Salina has reached a national milestone in the unmanned aircraft systems industry, becoming the first entity in the country to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, for statewide access during flight operations.

The university has received three Certificates of Authorization that will allow its unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program to conduct research anywhere in the state on public property, or on private property with landowner permission.

"These new authorizations are yet another example of how K-State Salina is truly a leader in unmanned aircraft systems," said Kurt Carraway, K-State Salina's UAS flight operations manager. "Our statewide access will allow us to continue to provide practical applications of technology to our students and will further develop our research abilities for the university, the FAA and our industry partners."

K-State Salina's UAS program will use the three new Certificates of Authorization, or COAs, primarily to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems operating requirements for remote sensing in agriculture and emergency response. The certificates are effective for two years, giving the university's UAS program a flexibility and immediacy in collecting research data, specifically in agriculture remote sensing, when conditions promptly change.

"The nature of agriculture research is subjective to environmental conditions and it's important that we are able to investigate the impact of drought, floods, insect infestation and other factors," Carraway said. "Before this access, we would have to apply for a COA from the FAA for a specific area of Kansas and then wait at least 60 days for approval. In a two-month time period, valuable information could be lost."

With more research opportunities, K-State Salina will be able to offer additional application-based experiences to unmanned aircraft systems students as well as students majoring in engineering, engineering technology, agriculture and other areas. And with more flying time, the UAS program will contribute to the FAA's need for more data about integration of UAS into the nation's airspace.

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