Kansas DOT Using Drones for Airport Inspections

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The Kansas Department of Transportation’s (KDOT) Division of Aviation has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test flights at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT).

Planned inspection missions include obstruction analysis, foreign object detection, wildlife hazard management and airfield emergency response. KDOT received its FAA authorization through a partnership with the Wichita Airport Authority, Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and George Butler Associates (GBA). The operations are part of the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

“We identified KDOT’s involvement with IPP as a prime opportunity to investigate the effectiveness and operations procedures necessary to implement safe UAS operations at ICT,” says Victor White, executive director of airports for the Wichita Airport Authority.

Notably, the authorization also includes an FAA waiver to conduct night operations at the airport, allowing KDOT to provide the FAA with much-needed data on UAS integration in complex airspace, the department says.

“This authorization will allow us to provide data-driven operations in real-world operating environments,” notes Ben Linder, leader of GBA’s advanced robotics and remote sensing group. K-State Polytechnic and GBA are part of a joint operations crew to establish procedures and operating methodology for the airport operations personnel.

“Incorporating UAS into a range of airport lines of business, such as detecting foreign object debris on runways, defective airfield markings and the integrity of the security infrastructure, may be done more effectively and efficiently than current methodologies,” says Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Polytechnic. “We look forward to exploring these use cases to further enhance safe airport operations.”

KDOT also recently received FAA permission to conduct drone operations beyond the visual line of sight to inspect power lines in rural Kansas. These flights are also part of the FAA’s UAS IPP.

Photo: Art davis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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