SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An Air Force veteran has been named to lead the unmanned aircraft systems program in Kansas.
Bob Brock, a Pittsburg native and retired lieutenant colonel, has been selected by the Kansas Department of Transportation to be the state’s first UAS director. He was introduced Tuesday at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus in Salina, which recently was ranked second in the nation among UAS-training colleges, The Salina Journal reported.
Unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones, carry cameras and are used to gather data in such areas as agriculture, wildfire mapping, disaster management, weather monitoring and law enforcement.
“It’s an exciting industry, and the sky is the limit,” Brock said. “We have the right people at the right time at the right place to shape this industry. We’re going to make a lot of history here.”
As UAS director, Brock will oversee establishment of policies and procedures for the operation of UAS in Kansas. Brock was a helicopter pilot and flight safety officer in the Air Force and also commanded a large squadron of UAS while stationed in New Mexico.
Brock, who will have offices at the KDOT headquarters in Topeka and at the K-State Polytechnic Campus, said his priorities will be protecting the privacy and public safety of Kansans.
“We’ll work closely with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), universities and aviation leaders to deliver systems that make Kansas safer and also provide economic growth,” he said. “There will be a heavy focus on agriculture. About two-thirds of UAS use in Kansas will be agricultural.”
Working with universities to train students to pilot and engineer the unmanned aircraft will be another aspect of Brock’s job.
Mike King, Kansas Transportation secretary and director of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, sees Brock’s hiring as a major step forward for UAS growth and the economic future of Kansas. King said he can’t think of another growth industry that will “change our way of life more than UAS.”
“It’s an opportunity to really train the next generation to make it all happen. We’re the aviation capital of the world, we say, now let’s go out and prove it,” he said.
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