Hoeven Brings USAF Chief of Staff to N.D. to See One-of-a-Kind Capabilities of Grand Forks Air Force Base, Grand Sky Tech Park

Beyond-Line-of-Sight Authorization Expected by Year End, NASA Partnership Progressing, Opportunities for Cybersecurity Operations Emerging

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today led a roundtable with U.S. Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General David Goldfein and officials from Grand Sky, the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) and the North Dakota University System (NDUS). Hoeven invited Goldfein to the state so he could see firsthand the unique capabilities offered by the base and Grand Sky Technology and Business Park, which are available nowhere else in the nation.

“We’re leading the way in UAS, creating a one-of-a-kind facility,” Hoeven said. “And before the end of the year we’ll be adding FAA authorization for beyond-line-of-sight operations, another unique capability that will enable us to safely develop concurrent Air Space use for both military and civilian operations. Our facility will enable FAA and DOD to work together in one location. We’ll be able to do research, testing, training and deployment without chase aircraft statewide across North Dakota. That can’t be done anyplace else in the country and will give us a competitive edge. This opens opportunities for military and commercial applications and will attract more companies like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics to set up operations at Grand Sky.”

“Today, we had the privilege of hosting Gen. David Goldfein’s tour of Grand Sky and sharing in a discussion of the future of UAS and its impact on military and private sectors,” said Thomas Swoyer, Jr., president of the Grand Sky Development Co. “The UAS industry continues to be among the fastest-growing in the world. Because of continued support from our local, state and federal officials, Grand Sky is poised to maintain its leadership role in the UAS industry. This support has put North Dakota on the map as a hub of UAS activity and we look forward to continued success as a team.”

Before the roundtable, the senator joined General Goldfein and Swoyer on a tour of the business park to review its shared runway with the air base, new General Atomics Flight Training Academy now under construction and plans for future development.

Securing Beyond-Line-of-Sight Operations

The senator told roundtable participants that he expects the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the Northern Plains UAS Test site for beyond-line-of-sight operations sometime next week, as they committed to him. The authorization will make the North Dakota UAS test site the first in the nation to have such operability. Authorization means that unmanned vehicles will be able to fly outside of view and with no manned tracking aircraft.

The FAA’s approval would be due in part to the DASR-11 digital radar system at GFAB. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven earlier this year secured $2 million for technical upgrades for this system and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo.

NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) System

In a related initiative Hoeven is also working to partner the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center to partner with Grand Sky to develop the agency’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system and other programs that will help to safely integrate UAS into the National Air Space. Earlier this year, the senator met with Dr. John Cavolowsky, NASA’s lead researcher in developing its UTM system. 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.

Emerging Opportunities in Data Management, Cybersecurity

Hoeven also underscored the fact that UAS are capable of gathering enormous amounts of data, and are becoming increasingly important for cybersecurity and commercial applications. For example, EdgeData recently announced plans to establish a data center at Grand Sky. The company will allow Grand Sky tenants to safely store data and “convert it into consumable information.”

To meet the growing needs for secure data management and analysis, the North Dakota University System (NDUS) has undertaken an effort to develop a comprehensive cyber education and research program. Bismarck State College offers a two-year program in cybersecurity, and new course development is ongoing at NDSU, UND and Minot State University.

These programs will offer opportunities for service members to improve their cybersecurity knowledge and gain credentials, enhancing the cybersecurity missions of the North Dakota National Guard. These include the regional Cyber Protection Team and the 119th Air Wing’s cyber targeting mission at Hector Field, for which Hoeven secured $7.3 million to build a new facility.

Hoeven authored and helped pass legislation in 2012 creating the FAA’s six test sites to integrate UAS into the National Airspace. He also included a provision in the FAA Reauthorization bill passed this year to extend the authorization for the test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, through September 2019.