ICT will be the first airport in Kansas to use small-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) or drones in airport operations. Recently the Airport Operations team began training to get a feel for what these drones are capable of, i.e., camera and sensors. The training involved becoming familiar with the sUAS platform, communication, crew resource management, checklist usage and mission planning while recording each drone flight using the onboard camera and then storing the video file.
After we have completed personnel training and successfully received our certificate of authorization (COA), we will be using the drone to supplement our inspection processes and develop a database for use as a comparison to future flights. For example, we will be able to compare with other flights to detect subtle changes in concrete condition and pavement marking deterioration. In the meantime, we will be using our drones to monitor wildlife activities (numbers and habitats), assist with roof inspections of airport property, monitor construction projects on the airport, assist aircraft alert response with thermal imaging, and conduct security inspections along the perimeter fence.
All Airport Operations personnel are members of the sUAS program. An initial training plan will cover a six-month syllabus to include academics and hands-on drone flying, which will then qualify the Operations personnel as mission-ready Part 107 Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC). Part 107 is FAA’s rule for operating sUAS. Part 107 academics training is the first step for new trainees. This course covers all elements of Part 107 and includes a minimum of 12 hours of academics. All trainees are required to take a Part 107 test, which is administered at an approved FAA testing center and results in the individual earning a Remote Pilot Certificate. At this point, the trainee can perform duties as a visual observer, while they build valuable hands-on experience and finish their training syllabus.
Wichita Airport Operations have an experienced team with a combined aircraft and sUAS flight hours in excess of 4500hrs logged and will be utilizing one of their personnel who is an sUAS instructor as well as a certified flight instructor (CFI, CFII) to perform training and mentoring.