Hoeven: UND's New Robin Hall Advances Grand Forks' UAS Leadership

Hoeven Working to Partner NASA with Grand Forks’ Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Also Working to Secure Beyond-Line-of-Sight Flight Approval from FAA

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today, along with state, local and university officials, dedicated Robin Hall, the newest addition to the University of North Dakota’s (UND) John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. The new building will primarily support unmanned aerial systems (UAS) education, research and development and will also house UND’s Center of Excellence for UAS.

“UND has long been a national leader in manned aviation, and now it is leading the way in unmanned aviation too,” Hoeven said. “Robin Hall will support UAS training, research and development, and is an important part of UND Aerospace’s expansion efforts. We’re becoming a hub for UAS technologies and education because of the work we’re doing at UND, Grand Sky Business and Technology Park and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, which is charged with integrating UAS into the National Airspace for commercial and public sector applications.”

Hoeven Working with NASA Officials at Ames Research Center to Forge Partnership with Northern Plains UAS Test Site
Senator Also Working to Secure Line-of-Sight-Flight Approval from FAA

Hoeven, who has been working to advance the UAS industry in North Dakota for more than a decade, recently returned from California, where he is working with officials to partner the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Grand Forks’ Grand Sky Technology Park. Hoeven highlighted the infrastructure and expertise in North Dakota’s UAS sector and the opportunities for NASA to develop its UAS traffic management program in North Dakota.

At the same time, the senator is working to secure approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for beyond-line-of-sight operations, which would enhance the appeal of the Northern Plains Test Site for NASA’s UAS traffic Management Program and other programs the agency wants to develop. FAA approval would make the North Dakota UAS test site the first in the nation to have such operability.

Earlier this year, Hoeven invited Dr. John Cavolowsky, NASA’s lead researcher in the development of unmanned traffic management systems, to keynote the Drone Focus Conference in Fargo. Last week, Hoeven met with Dr. Cavolowsky and Parimal Kopardekar, the manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operation Project and principal investigator of UAS traffic management at Ames Research Center. Hoeven met with NASA’s top UAS officials as a follow up to earlier meetings in D.C.

“NASA is developing the traffic management system to fly UAS in the National Airspace,” said Hoeven. “The Northern Plains Test Site and Grand Sky Technology Park have strong infrastructure in place and the right expertise to help NASA do it. That’s the partnership we’re working to build and we believe it is important to developing our nation’s UAS capabilities and ensuring that we do so safely.”

In April, the Northern Plains Test Site helped NASA evaluate its traffic management platform by conducting close-proximity UAS flight tests. The tests were conducted in partnership with the University of North Dakota and UAS companies, including Botlink, Altavian and Sensurion. The successful flight included four aircraft flying simultaneously to test traffic management and safety.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure $5 million in funding to support the UAS research that NASA is doing with the UAS test sites. Additionally, Hoeven has worked to secure language and funding for UAS research, development and operations at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

As senator, Hoeven included an amendment in the 2012 FAA reauthorization bill that instructed the FAA to designate six UAS test sites across the nation to help integrate UAS into the National Airspace. In December 2013, the FAA selected Grand Forks as one of the six sites. Hoeven included a proposal to provide a three-year reauthorization for the UAS test sites in the FAA extension agreement that Congress passed earlier this month.