Hoeven Amendment to Extend UAS Test Sites for Three Years Included in FAA Extension

Measure Strengthens UAS Research and Development in Grand Forks

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Senate and House have an agreement on an extension of the FAA Reauthorization bill through September of 2017. The measure includes the senator’s proposal for a longer term authorization for the nation’s six unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test sites, extending their authorization for three years. This includes the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, headquartered in Grand Forks.

Under current law, the test sites’ authorization would have expired next year, in February 2017, but the Hoeven amendment will extend their authorization by an additional three years, through February 2020. The Senate approved Hoeven’s provision for a five-year extension when it passed its FAA Reauthorization bill in April; however, the House didn’t pass an FAA reauthorization measure. As a result, Hoeven was forced to negotiate it and secured a three-year UAS reauthorization even though the FAA extension is only for one year. The Senate and House are expected to vote on the FAA extension this week or next.

“The test sites have made remarkable progress toward their mission, including nighttime operations, flying multiple aircraft in the same airspace and researching and testing aircraft up to an altitude of 1,200 feet,” Hoeven said. “Nevertheless, they still have work before them, and that will require investment and support from industry partners. If they can be sure those sites will be operational beyond the end of Fiscal Year 2017, those partners will have a greater incentive to use the FAA test sites

The FAA Reauthorization bill passed by Congress in February 2012 included an amendment introduced by Hoeven that directed the agency to establish six test sites tasked with integrating UAS into the National Airspace. The six sites were established beginning in December 2013 following a competitive process, and Grand Forks Air Force Base was named as one of the sites.