The future is in the air in northern Jackson County.

There, as recounted by The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Phil Anderson, a contractor with the Kansas Department of Transportation is testing drones as part of its design process. The tiny, airborne contraptions make quick work of the survey process that could take humans weeks and snarl traffic in the process. …

The process is still in its early stages. For now, the findings of human surveyors will be compared with pictures taken by the drone and stitched together on a computer. The eBee senseFly drones had better perform, in other words. …

The Department of Transportation should be commended for looking at cutting-edge ways to do its work. We support the move, and encourage it to look at other technological advances that could make roadwork go more quickly and conveniently for all concerned. The day that robots actually build our roads may be far off, but the technology will surely arrive sooner or later.

Too often, state agencies are seen as tradition bound, stuffed with bureaucrats only interested in slowing work to the slowest possible pace. This is untrue of course, and such stereotypes have been used by those who want to slash and burn state government services. Dedicated public workers are a credit to Kansas.

But as the world is swept along by unceasing changes in the fields of computing, artificial intelligence and advanced technology, state government must keep pace. The drones being tested now are an outstanding example, in that they offer a convenience for motorists and reduce demand on surveyors.

They shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to reduce staff, either. Kansas has pressing infrastructure needs, and freeing up people from one project should allow them to tackle others even more quickly and effectively.

Intelligent implementation of new technology should also allow Kansas government agencies attract younger workers. For those dedicated to programming and other STEM disciplines, a state government that incorporates those high-tech skills offers an attractive career opportunity. …

All of this is a heavy burden for a tiny drone to carry. But if we allow our imaginations to take flight along with it, the future for our state is bright.

— GateHouse Kansas