Hoeven Presses DHS, CBP to Make North Dakota UAS Hub for Northern Border Security

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, this week pressed top officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to utilize North Dakota’s expertise in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as part of the administration’s efforts to secure the northern border. Hoeven met with DHS Assistant Secretary Michael Dougherty, DHS Assistant Secretary Nate Jensen and acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and highlighted the work of North Dakota’s UAS industry to integrate UAS safely into the nation’s airspace, protect citizen’s privacy rights and help protect against emerging threats from the misuse of UAS. Hoeven secured a commitment from the DHS officials to visit North Dakota and see the work of the state’s UAS industry.

“North Dakota is leading the way in developing and testing UAS technologies. With its central location and the technology and partnerships we’ve worked to develop, it only makes sense that Grand Forks should serve as a hub for northern border security,” said Hoeven. “During today’s meetings, we highlighted the valuable role these systems can play in securing the northern border, including detecting illegal border crossings and the transportation of illicit substances.”

Hoeven has secured a commitment from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to pursue UAS in improving national security. The senator invited Secretary Nielsen to visit North Dakota to see firsthand the work of the Grand Sky Technology Park, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) UAS facility and the Grand Forks Air Force Base. 

Hoeven is working to build on the past decade of efforts to ensure North Dakota leads in developing the future of the UAS industry. This 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. 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. 

Further, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $8 million in Fiscal Year 2017 funding to ensure that CBP’s UAS operations and training facility would remain in Grand Forks. The CBP leased recently renovated space on the air base.

Additionally, McAleenan and Hoeven reviewed CBP and UND’s Pathways Program, which provides federal career opportunities for UND students learning to fly both manned and unmanned aircraft. Fifteen UND students were selected to train as CBP Air Interdiction Agents under the university’s Pathways Program and will be sworn in on January 8.