Natalie Blair KSAL
Kansas Economy to Benefit From Unmanned Aircraft Industry
March 13, 2013
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  • Natalie Blair

    K-State’s unmanned aircraft systems program office includes the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technology Evaluation Center and a full surface mount technology lab for unmanned aircraft avionics and payload miniaturization.

    The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts that Kansas will be among the Top 10 states in the country to see significant economic growth once unmanned aircraft systems are integrated into the national airspace system in 2015, based on anticipated sales, manufacturing and employment. Kansas State University will play a vital role in the growth.

    “This is great news for our state and for Kansas State University as we continue to be a national leader in remotely piloted aircraft research and strive to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025,” said Kirk Schulz, university president. “This is a technology that has great potential to save and improve the lives of many people while helping our state’s economy. I am proud of our K-State Salina campus for taking a national leadership role helping bring this exciting technology into the aviation field.”

    The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International — or AUVSI — estimates more than 70,000 new jobs will be created nationwide in the first three years following integration. This number includes 34,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs, which will require a technical baccalaureate degree. Kansas is expected to see the creation of 2,515 new jobs between 2015 and 2017, the first three years following integration.

    The total economic impact in Kansas is projected to surpass $489 million in that three-year period, which includes $4.84 million in tax revenue.

    “We are working with several other entities to become part of one of six FAA test sites in the country, ” said Kurt Barnhart, executive director of K-State’s Applied Aviation Research Center and aviation department head. “Winning that bid would have a tremendous impact on our research activities and students’ learning opportunities. ”

    “There are many opportunities for unmanned aircraft systems — or UAS — use in Kansas, such as disaster management, surveying power lines, telecommunication, and monitoring weather and the environment,” said Mark Blanks, director of the university’s unmanned aircraft systems program office. “The largest potential market is probably agriculture, as unmanned systems can be used to monitor crops and livestock, identify signs of disease or drought, and make spraying and watering crops more efficient.”

    “The second largest use sector is probably public safety,” Blanks said. “The aircraft can be used for surveying damage after a storm, finding missing people, finding hot spots in burning buildings, or even identifying chemical spills.”

    “Jobs in the UAS industry will be highly-skilled positions,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina. “The graduates of the UAS bachelor’s degree and professional Master of Technology programs on our Salina campus will be well-suited not only to fill these positions, but also to be the entrepreneurs on the leading edge as this technology continues to develop.”