Hoeven: DHS Should Rely on North Dakota, Private Sector Expertise to Counter UAS Security Risks

Senator Outlines Legislation Giving DHS, DOJ Authority to Address UAS Threats, Working with DHS Secretary on Visit to Grand Forks Region

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) this week, Senator John Hoeven urged Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to pursue private sector solutions as the agency works to develop technology to counter potential threats from unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Hoeven highlighted how these efforts are already underway in North Dakota and again advocated for DHS to utilize Grand Forks’ UAS facilities and expertise to address this priority. The senator and Secretary Nielsen are working on a timeline for her to visit Grand Forks this summer.

The senator also highlighted legislation he helped introduce this week, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018. This 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, it directs DHS to evaluate emerging UAS threats and to research and test technology to address these risks, which aligns with Hoeven’s work to advance North Dakota’s role in this effort.

“The legislation we introduced this week provides the authority and supports the technology development that is needed to manage the misuse of UAS in our airspace,” said Hoeven. “North Dakota clearly has the expertise needed to develop these capabilities, and we are working to bring Secretary Nielsen to Grand Forks to drive home how our state can lead the way in addressing both the security and privacy concerns surrounding UAS operations.”

Hoeven continues working to enhance the nation’s UAS operations in order to strengthen national security. Hoeven secured a commitment from Nielsen to pursue this priority and invited her to visit North Dakota to see firsthand the work of the Grand Sky Technology Park, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the CBP UAS facility and the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

In addition, Hoeven joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last week 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 on 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.

The state’s inclusion in the FAA pilot program reinforces North Dakota’s role as a leader in the future of the UAS industry. This includes developments in low altitude beyond-visual-line-of-sight applications, UAS detection/counter-UAS technologies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) unmanned traffic management (UTM) system. The state is able to make advancements in these areas due to two components Hoeven helped secure in recent years:

  • Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the visual line of sight of the operator.
  • Upgrades for the DASR-11 digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo.