Hoeven Pressing FAA to Ensure North Dakota can Operate UAS Beyond Visual Line of Sight on a Routine Basis

Senator Secures Commitment from Aviation Safety Administrator to Provide Clear Requirements & Timeline for BVLOS Operations without a Chase Plane

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven urged Ali Bahrami, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to help ensure that the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Test Site and North Dakota’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP) can conduct beyond-visual-line-of-sight-flights (BVLOS) without a chase plane on a routine basis.

Hoeven previously worked with the FAA to secure the BVLOS authorization for the test site and establish the IPP. However, the FAA has since only provided limited permission for BVLOS activities under these authorities, which limits the ability of the test site and the state to advance the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace. Accordingly, Hoeven has secured a commitment from Bahrami to provide a specific list of requirements and a timeline that would allow BVLOS operations to proceed in the state. Hoeven also pressed Bahrami on this priority in a phone call last week.

“BVLOS operations are critical to the development and testing of UAS technology,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate the FAA for working with us over the years to make our state a unique ecosystem for unmanned aviation, but we need the agency to continue being a good partner if we’re going to move the ball forward. Other nations are already making advancements in this field, so we need to bolster our efforts in North Dakota in order to maintain our nation’s leadership in UAS and safely integrate this technology into our airspace, which will benefit both the economy and national security. That means ensuring the requirements for BVLOS operations are clearly and promptly communicated to our state’s test site and IPP, and we appreciate Mr. Bahrami’s commitment to do just that.” 

Hoeven’s efforts with the FAA are part of his work to expand UAS operations in the state and build on its role as the nation’s proving ground for unmanned aviation. Earlier this year, Hoeven joined Grand Sky and the Harris Corporation in announcing a new UAS Super Corridor to allow beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights for unmanned aircraft throughout more than 100 miles of the Red River Valley. 

The corridor comes as the result of key technologies and authorizations that Hoeven has worked to secure in recent years, including the DASR-11 radar system in Grand Forks. Moving forward, Hoeven is seeking to expand the corridor into the Fargo region through an enhanced radar system at Hector Field, which he worked to fund and will be completed in September 2019.