Hoeven: North Dakota UAS Test Site Selected for FAA's Drone Integration Pilot Program

Announcement Follows Senator’s Efforts with Secretary Chao, FAA Administrator to Secure North Dakota’s Role in New Program

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in announcing that the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Test Site in Grand Forks has been selected as one of ten sites to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS integration pilot program. This will empower the test site and North Dakota’s UAS industry to be on the forefront of establishing the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace (NAS), providing regulatory certainty for UAS operators and ensuring privacy concerns are addressed.

Hoeven has worked with Secretary Chao since the program launched last year to secure the state’s role in the program. Following the FAA’s official call for applications, Hoeven continued to actively advance North Dakota’s application and urged for its approval through regular contact with Chao and Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K Elwell. Further, Hoeven hosted Chao at the annual Drone Focus conference last year, giving her firsthand knowledge of North Dakota’s dynamic UAS industry.

“This pilot program gives our state the opportunity to further strengthen its leadership in UAS and share our expertise with partners across the country,” said Hoeven. “Integrating UAS into the NAS will mean tremendous growth in this technology, bringing investment and good jobs, while also supporting our national security. And it’s happening right here in North Dakota. That’s big news for the test site, the companies at Grand Sky Technology Park, our universities and the UAS industry across our state.”

Hoeven has been working to ensure North Dakota leads in developing the future of the UAS industry, which includes low altitude beyond-visual-line-of-sight 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 potential misuse of UAS. 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 visual line of sight of the operator.
  • Upgraded digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and at Hector Field in Fargo.