Hoeven: Beyond-Line-Of-Sight, Unmanned Traffic Management Vital to Integrating UAS Into National Airspace

Senator Working to Advance Key Opportunities for North Dakota’s UAS Industry

FARGO, N.D. – Speaking at the Drone Focus monthly meetup today in Fargo, Senator John Hoeven stressed that beyond-line-of-sight operations and unmanned traffic management (UTM) are key to demonstrating that unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can be safely integrated into the national airspace and are vital in advancing the UAS industry in North Dakota.

“The path forward for North Dakota’s UAS industry lies with beyond-line-of-sight operations and the development of an unmanned traffic management system,” Hoeven said. “These are key components in demonstrating that UAS, no matter the size, can be operated safely in our national airspace. We have worked hard to make our state the ideal partner in these efforts. Between the Northern Plains Test Site, Grand Sky, our research institutions and our Air Force and Air Guard missions and capabilities, we are well-positioned to lead the way on the future of UAS research, development and training.”


Hoeven has continued his efforts to secure approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowing the Northern Plains Test Site to support beyond-line-of-sight operations. The senator said the FAA has made a commitment to him to grant approval by the end of 2016, which would make the North Dakota UAS test site the first in the nation to have such operability. This means the test site will be able to support the development, testing and evaluation of a wide range of new applications for UAS technology, giving the state a competitive edge in commercial UAS operations, training new pilots and in contending for the new UAS mission the Air Force plans to establish.

Hoeven said that North Dakota is well-positioned to receive the FAA’s approval, due in part to the DASR-11 digital radar systems at Hector Field and Grand Forks Air Force Base, which received a total of $2 million for technical upgrades earlier this year. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure funding for the upgrades, which are set to be completed early next year.


Hoeven said that development of UTM system goes hand-in-hand with beyond-line-of-sight operations. Accordingly, the senator met with officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center earlier this year in California, including Dr. John Cavolowsky, NASA’s lead researcher in developing its UTM system. Dr. Cavolowsky served as the keynote speaker at this year’s Drone Focus conference in Fargo, which he attended at Hoeven’s invitation, and spoke again at the UAS Summit in Grand Forks in August.

While in California, Hoeven made the case for partnering NASA with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the Grand Sky Technology Park to develop the agency’s UTM system and other programs. This partnership would build on work already undertaken by the test site, which helped NASA evaluate its traffic management platform in April by conducting close-proximity UAS flight tests.


UAS integration into the national airspace has been a central goal in Hoeven’s efforts to establish the Red River Valley as the premiere northern hub of UAS research, development and training, which began during his time as governor. To this end, Hoeven successfully authored and helped pass legislation creating the FAA’s test sites and included a provision in the FAA Reauthorization Extension in July to extend the authorization for the test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, through September 2019.

Hoeven continues working through his role on the Appropriations Committee to secure additional funding to support efforts across the federal government, including at the FAA test sites, NASA and the Department of Defense, to develop and demonstrate UAS technology.