Kansas town’s drone plans caught up in controversy

By Dave Jordan, News Reporter & By DeAnn Smith, Digital Content Manager


A Kansas town has landed in the middle of controversy over unmanned drones due to privacy concerns.

Herington, population 2,500, was looking for an economic boost. City leaders thought a project to build and launch unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, was the answer.

“I got excited,” City Manager Ron Strickland said. “I was really excited because we had a nice alternate use for our airport.”

Herington received three small drones on loan from the Kansas National Guard four years after it applied for and received federal approval to operate them. Herington was among a growing list of governments, law enforcement agencies and schools who obtained the aircraft since the U.S. approved them for domestic use in 2005.

But before Herington could launch the flights, the Kansas National Guard took them back.

“We were contacted by the federal government indicating that these were no longer unrestricted,” said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas National Guard. “They now fell under the classification of restricted use.”