Hoeven Meets With FAA Senior Advisor to Advance Effort to Develop Concurrent Airspace Use at Grand Forks Test Site

Goal Is to Fly Manned and Unmanned Aircraft in the National Airspace Safely

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven met last week with retired Major General Marke Gibson, Senior Advisor on Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) Integration at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to develop concurrent airspace use at Grand Forks to enable flying manned and unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System. The meeting was part of Hoeven’s ongoing effort to develop North Dakota’s UAS industry.

“North Dakota is playing a significant role in the development and integration of UAS technologies, and it’s very important that we work with General Gibson because we want to develop concurrent air space use at Grand Forks” Hoeven said. “That means flying manned and unmanned aircraft in the same airspace and doing it while respecting privacy rights and also doing it safely.”

Hoeven and Gibson reviewed the role that North Dakota can play in advancing the UAS integration agenda. North Dakota’s Northern Plains Test Site – one of six sites the FAA selected for UAS integration research in December 2013 – can work with companies to test advanced UAS operations, including beyond visual line of sight operations and nighttime operations. Hoeven urged Gibson to consider how to use the test sites to develop and demonstrate safe and reliable UAS operations so that those operations can then be carried out in the broader national airspace. Grand Sky is a business park in Grand Forks and is within the airspace of the Northern Plains Test Site.

The senator also cited a series of accomplishments over the past year, from securing UND’s selection as the FAA’s UAS Center of Excellence, to establishing the Grand Sky UAS Business and Aviation Park. He said the next step is to work with the FAA to enable safe commercial UAS operations so that the state can reap the benefits of this emerging industry, including good jobs and more economic activity. The state’s Northern Plains Test Site can help companies demonstrate their UAS capabilities so that the FAA can approve them for use throughout the national airspace.

In May, Hoeven joined with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, which would accelerate the integration of small UAS into the national airspace and support safe, limited commercial activities. Hoeven celebrated North Dakota’s year of UAS accomplishments at a UAS summit and expo in Grand Forks in September. In October, he joined officials from Northrop Grumman as they broke ground at their new Grand Sky 36,000 square foot facility. This month, Hoeven and executives from General Atomics broke ground on the company’s $2.5 million training facility.