Tool or weapon?

Those are two of the words often used to describe drones — essentially unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones can be navigated from the ground by a pilot or by following a pre-programmed flight pattern. Some drones have cameras for surveillance purposes, while others have ammunition, such as missiles or bombs, for warfare purposes. Still others have new uses that might prove useful for Kansans.

Unmanned aircraft are expected to provide benefits and a positive economic impact to Kansans as they are deployed for agricultural purposes. From offering better care for crops, livestock and pastures to identifying problems or progress on environmental factors drones can prove to more efficient agricultural operations. In this case, it is a good tool with a targeted positive outcome.

Salina was the site for flight demonstrations of a variety of unmanned vehicle systems earlier this month. The event showcased the precision of today’s drone technology for agriculture purposes, which U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said could create jobs in the Sunflower State.

“As a global leader in aviation and aerospace, Kansas is a pioneer in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems market, which holds great promise for boosting the economy and creating jobs in our state,” Moran said in a written statement. “The number of ways farmers and ranchers can utilize UAS are endless — from mapping the spread of disease or insects within a field to applying fertilizer to a specific area of crops — and I look forward to continued progress in this field.”

Though many people originally thought of drones as military tools, it is clear many other commercial uses might offer a broader civilian use for unmanned technology.

“We at Kansas State [University] are excited to see the progression of this technology to the point where it can really start benefiting the general population, and agriculture is the perfect place to start since it touches so many people,” Kurt Barnhart, executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State, said.

It’s good to see job creation among the positives of drone technology.

Despite such benefits, some states — including California, Florida, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Oregon — are outlawing drones to avoid having cameras capturing information on people that they believe might intrude on their personal lives.

Drones are a valuable tool with the potential for a less-than-desirable outcome. Like so many other situations, it isn’t the tool that is the problem, it’s the person, business or organization using it — along with their motives — that creates a problem.

Technology continues to aid the agriculture industry. Drones simply are the latest tool to aid farmers and ranchers. They’ll benefit the Kansas economy as long as their purposes and use are legitimate.


— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher