Hoeven: Congress Passes FAA Reauthorization, Invests in Nation’s Airports & Extends UAS Test Sites for Five Years

Legislation Includes Measures Hoeven Advanced to Address Potential UAS Threats & Spectrum Use, Develop Aircraft Maintenance Workforce

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today joined the Senate in passing a conferenced reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The legislation supports important investments in the nation’s aviation infrastructure, such as the relocation of Williston’s airport and other airport updates throughout the state. Further, Hoeven worked to ensure the legislation addresses issues that are critical to the safe integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the national airspace (NAS), including:

  • UAS Test Site Extension – extending authorization through 2023 for the UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota. The test sites were originally authorized by Hoeven-sponsored legislation signed into law in 2012.
  • UAS Spectrum Use – a Hoeven-authored measure directing the FAA, the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify the spectrum frequencies that would best enhance the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace (NAS).
  • Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 – legislation that Hoeven helped introduce to protect important facilities from security risks posed by unmanned aircraft, while also directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct research and test technology to address emerging threats and the potential misuse of UAS.

“We worked hard to ensure this legislation provides certainty for North Dakota’s UAS industry by extending our test site’s authorization for five years and helping clarify the spectrum UAS may use,” Hoeven said. “Further, the bill includes our legislation to bolster the development of counter-UAS capabilities, which is a major step in safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the NAS. We’ve continued to stress to administration officials, including during the recent visits of the Homeland Security and Air Force secretaries, that North Dakota is uniquely positioned to develop this technology. We will continue to advance this and other priorities to build our leadership in this dynamic and growing sector.”

Bolstering North Dakota’s UAS Leadership

The legislation passed today complements Hoeven’s ongoing work to advance North Dakota’s leadership in the UAS sector. Last month, the senator hosted U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in the state for the first flight of an unmanned aircraft that goes both beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator and without a chase plane. Further, Hoeven brought DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to Grand Sky to see the state’s UAS industry firsthand. Hoeven arranged the visits to advocate for the use of the state’s UAS expertise to improve national security and promote the following priorities:

  • Advancing the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the NAS. Earlier this year, Hoeven joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to announce that North Dakota was selected as one of ten sites to participate in the FAA’s UAS integration pilot program.
  • Developing counter-UAS technologies. In addition to the legislation passed today, Hoeven has included $13 million for counter-UAS technologies in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding legislation, while also directing DHS to report on its funding needs in this area for the next five years.
  • Allowing both the National Guard and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use private contractors, like those at Grand Sky, to train their UAS pilots. Hoeven’s National Guard measure was signed into law last year, and his CBP provision is included in FY2019 funding legislation.
  • Maintaining the Global Hawk UAS mission. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, the senator secured $100 million in the FY2019 funding legislation to provide for the purchase of an additional Global Hawk aircraft to carry the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload in Grand Forks.

Investing in North Dakota’s Airports

Hoeven also worked to ensure the FAA reauthorization bill includes strong support for airports and aviation operations in North Dakota. The senator said that maintaining safe and reliable airport infrastructure is an essential part of supporting the state’s continued economic growth. Accordingly, the legislation:

  • Authorizes stable funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports planning and development for airports of all sizes.
  • Directs the FAA to prioritize cold weather states when reviewing and provisioning funding for construction projects.
  • Reauthorizes the Essential Air Service (EAS) and Small Community Air Service Development programs.
  • Supports workforce development initiatives for aircraft maintenance workers, language which Hoeven cosponsored.
  • Improves airline passenger protections.
    • Directs FAA to set minimum leg room, width and length requirements for passenger seats in commercial flights.
    • Prohibits involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded, and requires clarification of regulations regarding compensation for bumped passengers.
    • Sets new requirements for airlines to promptly return fees for services, such as seat assignments or early boarding, purchased but not received.