TULSA, OKLA. – Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) shared with an audience of unmanned aircraft systems industry leaders the success of Kansas initiatives at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Cluster Initiative of Kansas and Oklahoma Tech Forum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Claeys said the work of the past few years, including his creation of a director of unmanned aircraft systems in the Kansas Department of Transportation and the development of programs at K-State Polytechnic, resulted in the recent selection of Kansas as a Federal Aviation Administration Integration Pilot Program state.
“Our success over the last few years is verified by our selection as one of the top UAS states in the nation,” said Claeys. “Recognition from the FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation shows how far we have come.”
Kansas was one of ten states or partnerships selected by the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace. The pilot program was initiated by the Trump administration to speed the creation of regulations for UAS.
“As we develop regulation for flight of unmanned aircraft, we also look toward developing an industry,” said Claeys. “Our transportation program at the state level needs to address this disruptive technology.”
Claeys serves on the Transportation Vision Task Force, developing the successor to the T-Works transportation program. He is also a member of the Kansas UAS Task Force, spearheaded by the Kansas Department of Transportation Division of Aviation.
At the conference, Claeys highlighted the many state entities with a presence in Salina and the connection to his work in the Statehouse for Salina. Claeys chairs the Transportation & Public Safety Budget Committee, the starting point in the budget process for the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections, the National Guard, the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
“We have a lot to be proud of in Salina,” said Claeys. “From the Crisis City training facility to the aviation programs at K-State Polytechnic, to the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy, Salina has a strong presence in public safety, aviation and education.”
Salina is home to a National Guard Training Center, the Kansas Department of Emergency Management Crisis City training facility, the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy, a KDOT district office, and the Air National Guard weapons range. K-State Polytechnic has one of the top UAS programs in the nation in Salina and Kansas Wesleyan offers programs in public safety and emergency management.
“As we look to the future, beyond integration into airspace, we need to look at the jobs that this industry can provide in Kansas and in my hometown of Salina,” said Claeys. “The payoff of all the hard work, of all the training and investment in building a framework for flight and an infrastructure for training, is the high-skill, good-paying jobs that follow.”
The UAS Cluster Initiative announced the next Tech Forum conference will be held in Salina in 2019.