Hoeven: FAA Approves Request for Expanded UAS Operations in North Dakota

Senator Worked with FAA Administrator for Approval

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved a request by the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site to conduct unmanned aerial system (UAS) flights through an expanded area of North Dakota’s airspace. The test site, based at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, is one of six national test sites Hoeven worked to create in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2012 reauthorization bill.

The senator wrote and spoke with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta multiple times last year pressing him to advance the process, and today the FAA approved the test site’s application for a broad area certification of authorization (COA), essentially a license to fly several UAS platforms in an area spanning roughly two-thirds of the state. 

“With this broad-area COA, the Northern Plains Test Site is the most versatile UAS test range in the United States,” Hoeven said.  “It means North Dakota now has FAA approval to test a wide variety of unmanned systems in one of the largest blocks of airspace in the country. After a great deal of hard work, we are eliminating the bureaucratic barriers that stand in the way of full integration of UAS into the national airspace.”

Hoeven has worked, both as governor and now as senator, with the state’s UAS community to establish and maintain North Dakota’s leadership in UAS technologies and to position the Grand Forks region as a hub for UAS operations, training, research and business. He led the effort to establish six national test sites to focus on UAS airspace integration, and worked closely with several stakeholders in North Dakota to bring one of the sites to the state. The FAA selected North Dakota as a test site on December 30, 2013.

The senator continues to press the FAA to use the test sites as a resource for UAS airspace integration. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to include $6 million for UAS activities at the FAA in the Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill.