The 2013 Kansas Unmanned Systems Conference kicked-off Monday afternoon at the Manhattan Conference Center.
The three-day event is focused on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and how they can be used in energy, emergency response, environmental and precision agriculture applications.
AgEagle, a company based in Neodesha, is at the forefront of UAS manufacturing for agricultural professionals.
“The AgEagle is an aerial platform, that monitors the health of the crops; and that information will help reduce the input costs and increase the yield of the crops,” said Bret Chilcott, owner of AgEagle.
The AgEagle operates by flying over and capturing several hundred pictures of a field, which are then stitched together into a single mosaic. The mosaic is then enhanced to display a color-coded map, signifying the health of the crop throughout the field.
“From that, we can create a geo-coded map that can be put into gps guided chemical applicators that would apply fewer chemicals where it’s not needed and more chemicals where it is needed,” said Chilcott.
The AgEagle was developed with help from the K-State Agronomy Department. It is fully autonomous, and can be operated by someone with zero UAS experience. The AgEagle will be available for delivery in January of 2014 at a cost of $11,700. The package includes the aircraft, launcher, software to control the aircraft and software to stitch the images together.
The conference also will also focus on the economic growth and job creation possibilities for Kansas.
According to a recent national economic report, the state could see nearly $3 billion channeled into its economy as the UAS industry emerges.
“The AUVSI economic report underscores Kansas as nmuber 7 of the top 10 states in the United States to reap the benefits of this industry to the tune of 2.9 billion dollars over the next 10 years (and) 3,716 jobs,” said Joel Anderson, development director at Kansas State University.
However, as with any emerging technology, the UAS industry will face many challenges along the way.
“The FAA has been mandated by Congress to integrate unmanned systems into the National Airspace by 2015. There’s going to be some challenges there. There are gonig to be technical challenges, there’s going to be safety issues that need to be considered, there’s going to be educational impacts, and all of those we’re going to be talking about during this conference. We’re not gonna solve all those problems during the next three days; but we’re going to lay the foundation for follow-on actions and follow-on activities to try to get to the essence of how we solve those,” said Anderson
That sentiment was echoed by the Mayor of Greensburg, Kansas, Bob Dixon.
“For me one of the biggest challenges that we have is getting past the misconception that it (UAS) is a drone and we’re spying on you, instead of a resource that can be used to maximize profit potential in your business”
As Greensburg continues to rebuild after an EF-5 tornado devastated the city in 2007, it’s incorporating unmanned aerial systems in the development of a new airfield, which will break-ground next year. Dixon said the airport will be able to accommodate unmanned systems as they become integrated into the civil marketplace. He added that a UAS presence in Greensburg, could help rebuild the local economy.
The Kansas Unmanned Systems Conference is sponsored by Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition; Herington UAS Flight Facility, or HUFF; AgJunction Inc.; Salina Area Chamber of Commerce; Salina Airport Authority; Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce; Overwatch Division of Avalon Risk Management; Solid Concepts; AgPixel; Shield Ag; AgEagle; ICE Corporation; AgriThority LLC; Kansas State University; University of Kansas and Wichita State University.