Hoeven Kicks Off Unmanned Systems Action Summit in Grand Forks

FAA Reauthorization Bill Could Advance UAS in Grand Forks and America

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today said Grand Forks is on its way to being a hub for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology, application and training, and that provisions in the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill he and Senator Conrad worked to include in the bill passed by the U.S. Senate will give the effort a big boost.


The remarks came at the kickoff of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Action Summit, “UAS 2020 – Looking to the Future,” a two-day event at the Alerus Center featuring the nation’s leading industry, military and professional experts on UAS. Hoeven, a cosponsor of the summit, said the event is intended to be national showcase for the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the University of North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence, and their regional private-sector partners that are engaged in cutting-edge research, training and applications development in the burgeoning field.


Hoeven and a group of senators are working to pass a final version of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill, which has provision that would significantly enhance UAS operations, technology and training. The bill would create concurrent or layered space in our National Airspace to allow UAS activity and establish UAS test sites and training centers across the nation. Senators Hoeven and Conrad are working to bring one of these hubs to Grand Forks.


“Our goal now is to make Grand Forks the premier northern center for the UAS industry in the U.S. That’s the big picture here, and we’re already well on the way to doing just that,” Hoeven said. “In Grand Forks, we have key elements and a range of assets all working together that already make this region a leader in UAS.”


          Those elements and assets include the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the state’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence, private-sector North Dakota businesses in the field, open airspace, world-class training facilities and a host of other elements well-suited to reach the goal, he said.


The private-sector opportunities are compelling, Hoeven said. UAS spending will more than double over the next decade from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $5.9 billion annually to $11.3 billion, totaling just over $94 billion in the next ten years, according to a 2011 Teal Group market study.


“This rate of growth brings good jobs and also competition within the industry to develop new and better technologies that will further enable UAS to benefit our everyday lives,” Hoeven said. “North Dakota companies like Appareo, Laserlith and others are already working on cutting- edge technologies like communications and navigation capabilities that enable unmanned aerial vehicles to integrate safely into the skies—and we’re also working on the federal level to safely integrate unmanned systems into our national skies.”


Hoeven described how the new FAA Reauthorization Bill, which is currently in a Senate-House Conference Committee, will help to open the skies for not only military but commercial UAS as well. The bill


·        Works with FAA and DOD to develop certification and flight standards for nonmilitary aerial systems in the National Airspace.

·        Works to develop detection techniques for small UAVs and to validate UAS sensor integration and operation.

·        Creates a pilot project to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System at six test sites by the end of 2012, while taking into consideration geographical and climate diversity and appropriate facilities.

·        Creates a safe, non-exclusionary airspace designation for cooperative manned and unmanned flight operations in the National Airspace.

·        Establishes a process to develop air traffic requirements for all UAS at the test sites and certification and flight standards for nonmilitary UAS at the test sites.


“We’re working to establish one of these training sites here in Grand Forks because this region is perfectly positioned to be a premier hub for UAS in the nation,” Hoeven said. “Creating concurrent or layered airspace would provide new opportunities for the UAS industry to expand, and serve as a magnet to draw the top aviation and technology companies right here to Grand Forks.”