Hoeven Outlines FAA Drone Integration Pilot Program for UAS Businesses at Monthly Meetup

Senator Working to Secure Role for North Dakota in UAS Pilot Program

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today outlined the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new drone integration pilot program for representatives of North Dakota’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry at the Drone Focus monthly meetup. Earlier this month, Hoeven joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to launch the program, which was followed by the FAA’s formal call for applications. The senator is actively working to secure the state’s role in the pilot program.

Accordingly, Hoeven is committed to setting up a meeting between the FAA and UAS leaders from the Red River Valley, including those from the Northern Plains Test Site and Grand Sky Development Company. This will provide them an opportunity to outline North Dakota’s UAS expertise and infrastructure to the FAA and help ensure the agency utilizes the unique advantages of the state when selecting projects under the new integration program. Hoeven has also sent a letter to Secretary Chao to advance this effort and hosted the secretary at the annual Drone Focus conference in Fargo this past May, giving her firsthand knowledge of North Dakota’s dynamic UAS industry.

“For more than a decade, we have worked to establish North Dakota as a premiere hub of UAS research, development, operations and training,” Hoeven said. “While that includes having our UAS missions and establishing Grand Sky, the test site and the center of excellence, it also means having a pro-growth approach that allows these innovations to be developed. This pilot program represents an important opportunity for our state to fill a central role in securing the future of this industry by bringing that same approach to the national level.”

Hoeven stressed that due to the relationship built between government and the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry in North Dakota, the state is well-positioned to take a lead in the pilot program and serve as a model for the nation to help advance the integration of this technology into the national airspace (NAS). This would help create a regulatory environment that allows development of this technology, from its applications in national security to agriculture and energy, while also protecting the privacy rights and safety of citizens.

This is the latest effort in Hoeven’s work 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.
  • Upgrades for the DASR-11 digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo.