Hoeven Outlines New Commercial UAS Bill, FAA's UAS Center of Excellence at UND

Senator Continues Working to Build Grand Forks Region Into Premier UAS Hub

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – At a roundtable with the Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce today, Senator John Hoeven outlined his efforts to continue building the region’s leadership in unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The senator is sponsoring new legislation that will help build the commercial UAS industry and promote innovation in this rapidly growing field. Hoeven also discussed opportunities resulting from the University of North Dakota’s new designation as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. 

“Unmanned aerial systems hold a wealth of opportunity, and the Grand Forks region is truly a leader in this exciting field,” said Hoeven. “We have legislation to help us safely fly small, commercial UAS while the FAA finalizes its guidelines. That means greater certainty for the test sites and the UAS industry, helping ensure that we stay at the forefront on new technologies and uses.”

Commercial UAS Modernization Act

Earlier this month, Hoeven and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation that sets interim operating guidelines for small commercial UAS to be flown in coordination with the FAA’s UAS integration test sites, including Grand Forks.  

The legislation will set interim safety rules, help speed up the process for commercial users seeking to fly small unmanned aircraft and preserve the FAA’s rulemaking authority while providing the agency with the flexibility to make changes in the final rule as necessary. Last week, Hoeven spoke with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who agreed to work with the senators to make sure the bill works for the FAA, the test sites and commercial interests seeking to test new technologies and commercial uses for UAS

The Commercial UAS Modernization Act:

  • Creates an interim rule that provides basic guidelines for commercial use and testing of small UAS during the period the FAA finalizes rules covering commercial UAS.
  • Builds a reasonable framework for the registration and use of UAS for commercial purposes, prioritizing safety while also lessening unnecessary burdens on responsible commercial UAS operators.
  • Increases the FAA’s focus on UAS integration by creating a deputy administrator position exclusively responsible for the safe integration of UAS in U.S. airspace, while also streamlining regulations that currently slow the industry’s ability to innovate new aircraft technologies.
  • Ensures that FAA test sites are being used to the maximum extent to facilitate research into new technologies, in partnership with industry and other relevant government entities.

Newly-Designated FAA UAS Center of Excellence at UND

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven and his committee colleagues included a directive to the FAA to establish the national Center of Excellence, with Congress appropriating $5 million to support a five-year agreement. In mid-May, Hoeven announced that the FAA has selected the ASSURE team, led by the University of North Dakota and Mississippi State University, as the Center of Excellence for researching the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace.

The new center will help to advance the integration of UAS into the National Airspace by researching and developing technologies focused on detect and avoid, command and control, system engineering and pilot training and certification.        

Hoeven has worked, both as governor and now as U.S. Senator, with the state’s UAS community to establish and maintain North Dakota’s leadership in UAS technologies and to grow UAS operations in the Grand Forks region. The senator was instrumental in getting Grand Forks selected as one of six test sites for integrating UAS into the National Airspace in 2013. Hoeven also helped to establish the Grand Sky Technology Park, helping secure the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) for the park and bringing top leaders of Northrop Grumman to Grand Forks in 2012. Tomorrow, Hoeven will host executives of FlightSafety International to showcase opportunities at Grand Sky Technology Park.