Hoeven Announces $3 Million DOD Investment in Advanced DASR-11 Radar Upgrades for Grand Forks, Fargo Bases

Upgrades Will Allow Multiple Aircraft to Fly Concurrently beyond Operator's Line of Sight

GRAND FORKS, N.D.  – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Department of Defense will invest $3 million at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Fargo’s Hector Field to make technical upgrades to their Digital Airport Surveillance Radar (DASR-11) systems.

The upgrades are key to integrating unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the National Airspace because the newer technology will provide clearer resolution, enabling multiple aircraft to fly beyond the line of sight without chase aircraft or direct ground observers.

“These technical upgrades represent a big step forward because they mean that both Grand Forks Air Force Base and Fargo’s Hector Field will have true ground-based Sense and Avoid systems, enabling UAS to fly safely with other aircraft,” Hoeven said. “This will help companies like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics operate in the future. In addition, establishing requirements for air traffic management is also important because it means the Defense Department will be able to evaluate various models for safely flying military UAS concurrently with commercial UAS. Both the radar upgrades and requirements for air traffic management take us one step closer to broader commercial use of UAS in the civilian airspace.”

The senator made the announcement at a roundtable meeting he organized to review the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is working to support priorities at the Air Force bases in Grand Forks, Minot and Fargo, home to the North Dakota Air National Guard.

The awards include the following important projects:

  • $1.5 million to upgrade Grand Forks Air Force Base’s DASR-11 radar: This digital radar system provides a very clear picture of the airspace around Grand Forks, but it takes very high-powered computer hardware and software to take full advantage of the radar’s capabilities. With this upgrade, the radar will be able to identify UAS, even if the UAS is not sending out a signal.
  • $500,000 to begin upgrading software for the DASR-11 at Fargo’s Hector Field: The funding will be used this year to study the airspace around Fargo and then move to install the software upgrade in 2017. 
  • $1 million this year to begin setting DOD’s requirements for operating in the unmanned traffic management system being developed at NASA: This lays the essential groundwork for DoD to use the Northern Plains test site in 2017 and 2018 to evaluate concepts and capabilities for integrating its UAS fleet with civilian UAS traffic management systems.

Hoeven organized today’s roundtable to review the new FAA reauthorization bill advanced by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The measure would authorize $33.1 billion in funding for FAA programs for two years, through September 30, 2017. The legislation will also include a number of provisions related to UAS, aircraft control system technology (NextGen), the FAA’s equipment certification process and consumer protection.