Hoeven Kicks Off Second Annual Drone Focus Conference

Senator Brings Lead NASA UAS Traffic Management Researcher to ND, Continues Advancing the Integration of UAS into National Airspace

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today kicked off the second annual Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, a gathering of local, national and global leaders in the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry. Hoeven stressed North Dakota’s many strengths that position the state as a prominent hub for UAS innovation and outlined the opportunities that the growing industry offers.

“For more than a decade, North Dakota has been positioning itself to be a leader in the UAS industry,” Hoeven said. “Our efforts continue to pay off. Activities throughout the Red River Valley are advancing the integration of UAS into our national airspace and empowering businesses, from local startups to international corporations, to find new applications for this technology, whether it’s improving agriculture operations, delivering goods to consumers, supporting law enforcement or securing our nation. We are making this happen right here in our state.”

During his remarks, Hoeven introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. John Cavolowsky from the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Cavolowsky is NASA’s lead researcher in the development of unmanned traffic management systems and is attending today’s conference at the senator’s invitation.

Dr. Cavolowsky’s visit to the state dovetails with Hoeven’s ongoing work to support the integration of UAS into the national airspace. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure funding and language supporting UAS research, development and operations at NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

Hoeven also successfully included a provision in the 2016 FAA Reauthorization, which has been passed by the Senate, to extend the FAA UAS test site program through FY22. At the same time, the bill includes a second amendment offered by Hoeven and Senator Thad Cochran to strengthen existing UAS research programs. The legislation instructs the FAA Administrator to leverage to the maximum extent possible the capabilities of the Center of Excellence on UAS (COE), co-led by the University of North Dakota (UND), and the UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains Test Site, when establishing standards for UAS safety and certification of UAS aircraft.

These accomplishments stand as the senator’s latest efforts to establish North Dakota as the northern hub for UAS technology research and development. Since his time as governor, Hoeven has successfully:

• Established the Center of Excellence for UAS Research, Education and Training at UND, the first collegiate degree program of its kind in the nation.
• Supported the establishment of and preserved UAS operations at Grand Forks Air Force Base, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
• Authorized the FAA UAS Test Site program and led efforts to secure Grand Forks’ designation as one of the six national test sites.
• Funded the formation of and secured ongoing support for the UAS COE through the Senate Appropriations Committee.
• Helped secure an Enhanced Use Lease between Grand Forks County and the Air Force to develop the Grand Sky Business and Technology Park.
• Secured the first tenants for Grand Sky, including Northrop Grumman and General Atomics.