Hoeven: Beyond-Line-of-Sight is Vital to the Testing, Advancement of New Applications for UAS Technology

Senator Joins Elbit for UAS Tech Demonstrations, Makes Case for Company to Expand Operations in North Dakota; Continues Working to Secure Approval for Beyond-Line-of-Sight Operations

HILLSBORO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today joined executives from Elbit Systems and local officials to demonstrate the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in precision agriculture and to highlight the importance of beyond-line-of-sight operations in testing and advancing UAS technologies. The senator has been working to secure approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for beyond-line-of-sight operations in the state, which would make the North Dakota UAS test site the first in the nation to have such operability.

Hoeven said this approval would unlock a wide range of opportunities in the state for developing UAS technology, testing new applications and training pilots. For instance, beyond-line-of-sight operations are required for General Atomics to train pilots on its Predator series of UAS and would help Elbit as it works with Xcel Energy to test UAS for use in inspecting electric transmission lines and recovering from natural disasters.

“North Dakota is well-positioned to support major advancements in the UAS industry,” Hoeven said. “Beyond-line-of-sight operations are the next level in our state’s growth in this dynamic field. It will mean greater opportunities for our test site and companies throughout the valley to advance the integration of UAS into the national airspace, test many new, valuable uses for UAS and allow the training of hundreds of UAS pilots from around the world.”

Elbit, an Israel-based company, manufactures the Hermes 450 UAS, which is being flown from Hillsboro and Mayville as part of two research grants provided by the state, one to North Dakota State University and another to the University of North Dakota, Xcel Energy and GE Grid Solutions. During today’s meeting and demonstration, Hoeven urged the company’s leadership to expand their operations in the state, highlighting the infrastructure and expertise in North Dakota’s UAS sector. The senator stressed that the region has a dynamic industry with the Northern Plains Test Site, universities, military bases, small, innovative startups, major companies and others all working in close proximity.

These efforts come as part of Hoeven’s ongoing work to establish Grand Forks and the Red River Valley as the premier northern hub for UAS research, development and training.

Hoeven recently met with officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center in California to make the case for partnering NASA with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the Grand Sky Technology Park to develop the agency’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system and other programs.

The partnership with NASA and securing approval for beyond-line-of-sight operations would help advance the integration of UAS into the national airspace, which Hoeven has actively worked to advance. Last month, Hoeven successfully included a provision in the FAA Reauthorization Extension to extend the authorization for the nation’s UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, through September 2019.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has also worked to secure funding and language supporting UAS research, development and operations at NASA, the FAA, the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.