Hoeven Drives Home Importance of Leveraging North Dakota's UAS Expertise to Improve Security at Borders and Across Nation with DHS Nominee Nielsen

Senator Builds on Meeting with Nominee, Restates Invitation to Grand Forks

WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today, Senator John Hoeven secured a commitment from Kirstjen Nielsen, the nominee to serve as the Secretary of Homeland Security, to pursue the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in improving national security, both at the borders and across the country. Hoeven stressed the ability of the technology to aid in detecting illegal crossings and the transportation of illicit substances. At the same time, the senator highlighted how the expertise of North Dakota’s UAS industry can be leveraged to ensure the technology is integrated safely into the nation’s airspace, protect citizen’s privacy rights and help to protect against emerging threats from the misuse of UAS.

Today’s hearing follows a meeting Hoeven held with Nielsen last month, where the senator invited her to visit North Dakota when confirmed to see the work of the Grand Sky Technology Park, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) UAS facility and the Grand Forks Air Force Base firsthand.

“UAS provides unique capabilities to improve our nation’s security, a point I continue to drive home with the DHS nominee, Kirstjen Nielsen,” said Hoeven. “I look forward to working with her to use this technology in combination with the right mix of personnel and infrastructure to secure our borders.”  

Hoeven is working to build on the past decade of efforts to ensure North Dakota leads in developing the future of the UAS industry. This includes low altitude beyond-line-of-flight 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 lead advancements in these areas due to two components Hoeven helped secure over the past couple of years:

  • Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the 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. 

Further, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $8 million in Fiscal Year 2017 funding to ensure that CBP’s UAS operations and training facility would remain in Grand Forks. The CBP leased recently renovated space on the air base earlier this year.