On the night of May 4, 2007, a tornado classified as a 5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale reached the town of Greensburg, Kansas. Within 20 minutes, the storm ravaged 95 percent of the city’s infrastructure, leaving 11 residents dead and nearly 800,000 cubic yards of debris in its wake.
Tasked with expediting the town’s recovery and preventing future devastation, the state of Kansas allotted funding to various emergency response initiatives: debris removal, reconstruction of roads and buildings, and—less traditionally—the study of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations. In other words, Kansas spent money to study drones. (The term “drones” is generally avoided by commercial aviators and academics given its connections to the military and surveillance services