'Drone' industry awaits legislation in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. - Legislation in Kansas would regulate the use of “drones,” also known as unmanned vehicles systems (UVS) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the state.

According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), these companies could create more than 2,500 jobs in Kansas by 2017. The study also found that by 2025, the UAV industry could have a total economic impact of $2.9 billion statewide.

However, the industry has several obstacles to overcome before it can take flight.

Christian Stallings manufactures and flies UAVs for Remote Geomatics, LLC, based in Kansas City. He said he uses them for mapping and commercial purposes.

Stallings doesn’t use the word drone.

“It was an attempt to re-brand ourselves. We never really used the word drones. We used to use the term Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV.”

However, it’s not legal according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I don't think there's anyone that wants this industry regulated more than the commercial sector. It's a technology that has the capability of providing so many good things but like every new technology can be a double edge sword,” he said.

In Kansas, the state Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would outline who can use this technology.

The number of ways to use UAVs is taking off. There are new applications for the technology created every day.

Already they’re used in real estate, mapping and farming.

Stallings described what’s called precision agriculture. “[UAVs are used to] determine the health of the crop so you can spread more fertilizer in one area and conserve on the amount of fertilizer you're using.”

The proposed legislation would restrict using a person's image or other personal information without their consent but not everyone is comfortable with any use.

That’s what is front and center in the UAV discussion.

“Obviously the privacy concerns, the use with law enforcement concerns are very valid concerns but I think they overshadow the potential good uses of this technology,” said Stallings.

There are also at least two programs at the university level dedicated to studying the use of UAVs in news gathering, including one at the University of Missouri and another at the University of Nebraska.

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