BENTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced Wednesday that Kansas has been selected as one of 10 states that will participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, an initiative aimed at shaping the future use of drones in America.

“We are looking forward to helping today’s winners unlock the enormous potential of drone operations, which will create new services and jobs in their local communities,” Chao said.

Other states chosen to participate include Oklahoma, California, Nevada, North Dakota, North Carolina, Alaska, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida.

According to a statement from Gov. Jeff Colyer’s office, drone integration testing in Kansas will focus on search and rescue of stranded motorists, and explore infrastructure inspection and remote safety assessment applications for transportation nationwide.

“We are looking forward to leading the way in Unmanned Aircraft Systems going forward, and we are very happy to be a part of this program,” Colyer said. “UAS technology has the potential to do so many remarkable things, and as the air capital of the world, we feel it’s particularly appropriate for Kansas to be a part of this aviation of the future.”

Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, who was on hand at the announcement in Benton, said the use of UAS technology in agriculture is important to Kansans.

The pilot program is touted as an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration.

“This is a terrific opportunity to explore new ways to use this technology to reduce the risks to our workers during infrastructure inspections, search and rescue and remote area assessments,” said Kansas Secretary of Transportation Richard Carlson. 

Congressman Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, also issued a statement praising the decision to include Kansas in the program. He said that “in the first three years of drone integration, it is predicted that more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion.”

“In my district, K-State Polytechnic is one of the first universities in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems," Marshall said. "This exclusive cutting-edge education shows Kansas is leading in this industry, and with the DOT’s selection I am proud that we will continue to champion this technology.