Hoeven: FAA Approves New Waiver for Northern Plains UAS Test Site Enabling Expanding Testing of UAS

Senator Worked to Secure Waiver to Attract More Companies to Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved a new waiver allowing the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to support unmanned aerial system (UAS) flights involving aircraft that do not have a public designation. Hoeven has been working to secure FAA approval for the waiver, which means: 

  • Companies can fly with the test site to get the experience necessary to prove that their aircraft are safe in preparation for accessing the wider national airspace.
  • A larger number of companies will be in position to obtain beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) waivers through the test site in the future.

Under current FAA rules, a UAS must be designated as a public aircraft in order to fly, even when operating under the supervision of a UAS test site. This restricts the companies’ ability to establish a safe operating record, which is required in order to fly UAS in the broader national airspace.

“This new waiver will allow many companies to work within the airspace governed by North Dakota’s test site without needing a public designation, giving the state an even greater competitive edge in the UAS industry,” said Hoeven. “Now, companies will be able to come to North Dakota to establish the safety record necessary to expand their UAS operations. This is an important step for North Dakota and our continued leadership in all things UAS.”

Last week in Grand Forks, Hoeven announced that, at his urging, the FAA had approved BVLOS waivers for UAS flights in the region utilizing enhanced radar software.Specifically, the waivers secured by Hoeven support BVLOS flights conducted by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and General Atomics, utilizing enhanced radar software. The software upgrades improve the safety and security of BVLOS flights, but required a new waiver from the FAA before being deployed. New BVLOS waivers face a lengthy approval process, and Hoeven worked to accelerate these approvals based on North Dakota’s strong track record of safe UAS operations.