Federally funded study will explore use of drones in Kentucky

11/10/2015 07:01 PM

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs will be studying the growing use of drones in Kentucky, according to an agreement approved by the Government Contract Review Committee on Tuesday.

The $93,937 agreement paid through federal funds for Maryland-based consultant Anthony Pucciarella, a retired U.S. Navy commander and director of operations for the University of Maryland’s Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site, was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Republican Sen. Paul Hornback voting against the contract.

Pucciarella will lead a review of unmanned aerial systems and their applicability in Kentucky, with the contract beginning Oct. 16 and running through March 1.

Retired Col. David Thompson, executive director of the Commission on Military Affairs, said the study would help the state find its footing in an industry that’s expected to reach $13.6 billion in economic impact and employ 70,000 within three years of federal-level integration of drones, according to figures from Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Up through 2025 that’d grow into over 100,00 jobs and $82 billion, so our role is to look at Kentucky and what part of that economic pie can we shape for ourselves and is it appropriate for the commonwealth,” Thompson said.

The contract follows the passage of House Joint Resolution 100 in this year’s legislative session, which calls on the commission, the Cabinet for Economic Development and the Transportation Cabinet to study the overall impact from Kentucky’s aerospace industry.

As the use of unmanned aircraft continues to expand, Thompson said the study will help lawmakers craft legislation on the appropriate use and regulation of drones.

“There seems to be a lot of questions from a range of legislators about where to go on this and what to do, so it seemed commonsense to me to bring in some experts and look at this industry, look at Kentucky specifically, how we might specifically benefit from the application of this technology in our commonwealth to either advance the safety of our people or improve the quality of life or improve the production of our farmers,” Thompson said, adding that the information would be available to lawmakers and educators “who are looking at ways they can adapt the workforce and graduates in engineering programs to this particular part of the economy.”

Hornback, in explaining his vote against the contract, said such work should be left to the private sector, adding that he uses unmanned aircraft for his farming operations.

“Private industry does this much quicker and much more efficiently than we do in government,” said Hornback, R-Shelbyville, noting his belief that the military should study the use of drones. “… For government to do these type of things that the private industry is doing now, to me is not a wise use of dollars. I think we’ve got a lot better places to use dollars.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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