Hoeven Continues to Advance UAS as Key for Northern Border Security

Senator Advocating Use of North Dakota UAS, Aerospace Assets to Strengthen Border Security, Develop Counter-UAS Technologies & Train Pilots

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its Northern Border Strategy:

“The DHS has set important security goals for the northern border, but in order to achieve those goals, I believe the department must make better use of unmanned aircraft assets to fill in surveillance gaps along the border,” Hoeven said. “The intelligence provided from unmanned aircraft, such as those flown by Customs and Border Protection from Grand Forks Air Force Base, will be critical to understanding the threats we face, enabling timely responses to those threats and mitigating the effects of disasters in the northern border area. That’s why I will continue to advance UAS as a key tool in our border security efforts, which is a central part of protecting our nation.”

Hoeven is working to advance unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to strengthen national security, especially along the northern border, where, for instance, Customs and Border Protection in Grand Forks is responsible for 900 miles of border. This aligns with Hoeven’s effort to advocate for the administration to utilize Grand Forks’ UAS facilities and expertise to improve border security, develop counter-UAS technologies and address the pilot shortage, both for manned and unmanned aircraft. 

To this end, the senator has secured a commitment from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to pursue this priority and is working with Nielsen on a timeline for her to visit Grand Forks this summer. This will allow her to see firsthand the work of the Grand Sky Technology Park, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the University of North Dakota’s aerospace school, the Customs and Border Protection UAS facility and the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Further, Hoeven joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last month to announce that North Dakota was selected as one of ten sites to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS integration pilot program. As part of this program, the North Dakota test site and the state’s UAS industry will be at the forefront of establishing the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace (NAS), providing regulatory certainty for UAS operators and ensuring privacy concerns are addressed.

These efforts dovetail with bipartisan legislation Hoeven recently helped introduce, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018. The bill would give the DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to protect important facilities from security risks posed by unmanned aircraft. At the same time, the bill directs the DHS to evaluate emerging UAS threats and to research and test technology to address these risks.