Hoeven: North Dakota Ready to Advance UAS Industry on All Fronts

Senator Outlines Next Moves for Low-Altitude Beyond-Line-of-Sight, Counter-UAS & NASA’s Traffic Management System

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – At the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Summit and Expo in Grand Forks today, Senator John Hoeven said North Dakota has the key components in place to advance the UAS industry on all fronts. Hoeven is working to build on the past decade of efforts, including establishing the test site, Grand Sky and UAS missions at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, to ensure the state leads in developing the future of this emerging industry – 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. 

The state is able to lead advancements in these areas due to two components Hoeven helped secure over the past couple of years:

  • Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the line of sight of the operator.
  • Upgrades for the DASR-11 digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo. 

“North Dakota brings a set of UAS capabilities to the table that remains unmatched around the country,” Hoeven said. “We have worked over many years to put all of the components in place, and as a reward, we will be the leader in advancing the UAS industry across sectors. We will create the technologies that allow safe commercial and private uses, like crop surveying, electrical line inspection and package delivery, while also protecting against the improper use of UAS, especially threats to our national security. We have the tools and expertise to take on challenges in any of these areas.”


Hoeven is working to secure an additional certificate of authorization for North Dakota’s test site to conduct low-altitude beyond-line-of-sight flights. Low altitude operations will put the state in the lead to develop many commercial applications, like Amazon’s proposed package delivery.

This effort dovetails with Xcel Energy’s recently-formed partnership with the FAA to conduct power line inspections using UAS across large portions of North Dakota, which will help the agency develop guidelines for beyond-line-of-sight UAS operations in other industries and in other parts of the country. Hoeven supported the joint research between the test site, Xcel Energy and others that helped lead to the new partnership.


North Dakota’s test site has the appropriate access to both the National Airspace (NAS) and Restricted Airspace in order to develop technologies to detect UAS and protect against UAS threats. These are integral to ensuring national security and safely integrating UAS into the National Airspace (NAS) and will have impacts across commercial and defense applications. Specifically, counter-UAS technology would bolster efforts to protect the nation against the misuse of UAS technology, especially against any emerging threats to national security.


Hoeven is also working to partner NASA’s Ames Research Center with Grand Sky to develop the agency’s UTM system and other programs that will help to safely integrate UAS into the NAS. Last year, the senator met with Dr. John Cavolowsky, NASA’s lead researcher in developing its UTM system. This partnership would build on work already undertaken by the test site, which helped NASA evaluate its traffic management platform by conducting close-proximity UAS flight tests.