The FAA has granted two Certificates of Authorization (COA) to the city of El Dorado, Kansas, to fly unmanned aircraft at El Dorado Municipal/Captain Jack Thomas Memorial Airport (EQA) for the next 12 months.
The city applied for the COAs earlier this year after signing an agreement with Flint Hills Solutions (FHS), a Butler County Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) provider. Both the city and Flint Hills Solutions have agreed to work together to jointly promote the airport as “UAS Friendly” to all public entities, including emergency responders, law enforcement, fire departments, as well as state and federal organizations, requiring airspace, facilities and technical support to train and operate unmanned aircraft in support of their public safety missions. The city and FHS have plans to build a new operations and training center at El Dorado airport in 2011.
“El Dorado Airport will be a superior place for UAS operations and is perfectly situated 30 miles from Wichita, Kansas, that allows for training and operations outside of Class B, C or D airspace,” said Roger Powers, president & CEO of Flint Hills Solutions. “Other airports we have evaluated are either too remote or too congested for safe operations of UASs. We are so fortunate to be able to grow with El Dorado and be a part of what industry experts say is a $16 billion per year market by 2016.”
The UAS that will be operated initially at El Dorado Airport include the FHS FH-700 Fixed Wing unmanned aircraft and the FH-520 Vertical Take Off and Landing Helicopter. Both systems are fully autonomous Unmanned Aerial Systems and weigh less than 55 pounds. The UAS are being used for aerial inspections, emergency response, fire & rescue, and other public safety operations.