Kansas among sites selected for program aimed at expanding drone flights

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MGN Online MGN Online
BENTON, Kan. (KAKE) -

Federal transportation officials have selected Kansas as one of the 10 sites for a test program aimed at increasing government and commercial use of unmanned aircraft.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the winners Wednesday for the three-year drone program where states, local communities and tribes can devise their own trials.

"This is a terrific opportunity to explore new ways to use this technology to reduce the risks to our workers during infrastructure inspections, search and rescue and remote area assessments," said Secretary of Transportation Richard Carlson.  

The other sites are located in Oklahoma, California, Nevada, North Dakota, North Carolina, Alaska, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. Transportation officials say 149 applications were received.

President Donald Trump signed a directive last year to establish the "innovation zones" that allow exemptions to some drone regulations, such as flying over people, nighttime flights and flights where the aircraft can't be seen by the operator.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said that with about 140,000 miles of public roads, many in rural areas, Kansas is an ideal location to test the technology, which will benefit not only transportation but also agriculture and many other industries doing business in Kansas. 

The unmanned aircraft industry has pushed for relaxed restrictions. Officials say current regulations have limited drone use, forcing companies to test overseas.

"KDOT strives to be on the cutting edge of transportation technology," Carlson said. "We are always looking for better, more efficient ways to help make travel safer for Kansans, visitors and the commercial industries that depend on our roads."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 

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