Hoeven Meets FAA Administrator to Press for ND Role in UAS Integration Pilot Program, Highlight State's UAS Leadership

Senator Pushes Federal Commitment for Williston Airport Project

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today met with Dan Elwell, the current administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to outline North Dakota’s leadership in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and to advocate for North Dakota’s role in the FAA’s UAS integration pilot program. Hoeven invited Elwell to North Dakota to see firsthand the state’s UAS industry, including Grand Sky Technology Park and the Northern Plains Test Site. 

“North Dakota continues to lead the way in UAS operations with the expertise and infrastructure necessary for research, development, and training. That’s why we invited FAA Administrator Elwell to see firsthand the good work being done in our state, including at Grand Sky, the Northern Plains UAS test site and our center of excellence,” said Hoeven. “We also made the case for North Dakota to be part of the FAA’s integration pilot program, as well as the administration’s efforts to develop counter UAS capabilities.”

Hoeven highlighted the state’s application for the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program. In November, Hoeven joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and then-FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to launch the program, which was followed by the FAA’s formal call for applications. Hoeven has sent a letter to Secretary Chao to advance this effort and hosted the secretary at the annual Drone Focus conference in Fargo last May, giving her firsthand knowledge of North Dakota’s dynamic UAS industry.

Hoeven has been working to ensure North Dakota leads in developing the future of the UAS industry, which 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. These technologies are central to safely incorporating UAS into the NAS, developing new commercial applications for unmanned aircraft and protecting against rogue UAS threats. The state is able to lead advancements in these areas due to two components Hoeven helped secure in recent years:

  • Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the line of sight of the operator.
  • Upgraded digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and at Hector Field in Fargo. 


Additionally, Hoeven reiterated his support for the Williston Airport project, and the need for the FAA to provide additional funding for the project. As a member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to secure funding and language to support the new airport. The senator authored a provision to help existing airports, like Williston’s, that are in critical need of expansion or relocation, but unable to grow their current facilities due to physical constraints. The measure directs the FAA to ensure sufficient funding is available to relocate these airports in a timely manner.