Last week, the Kansas Department of Transportation (DOT), in coordination with 30 other Kansas groups, flew a drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Integration Program (IPP). Kansas-State Polytech Flight Operation Manager Travis Balthazor said, “Currently, we’re restricted to a visual line of sight operations. So, anytime you fly a main aircraft, you have to keep it in the visual line of sight, and we’re trying to advance those regulation to allow more UAS technology for the general public.”
The BVLOS operations took place in Gypsum, Kansas with about 50 observers watching. Director of Kansas Aviation, Bob Brock, said, “The [FAA] has given us authority and a partnership to be able to do brand new things with drones that people aren’t allowed to do anywhere else in the country. We can fly drones out of our sight, which gives us the ability to do a search and rescue in county or state parks. These drones are an actual lifesaving tool and can positively impact the state’s economy.”
The operations are conducted by pre-programming the drone’s flight path; the pilot can track it remotely and track its progress on a monitor. The drone has way points on a map and its pre-programmed so that those waypoints have a specific location, a specific altitude and a specific speed. That way, as it’s progressing to each of those waypoints, it has a specific flight profile. During the flight, the operator can change the drones profile to go in a different direction or end the flight earlier.
The goal of this program is to improve drone technology so that drones can be used in many industries such as infrastructure and agriculture in Kansas.
Over 2,800 applicants applied for this opportunity to conduct BVLOS operations and the FAA only gave Kansas and four other states their approval.