Hoeven Working to Build Partnership Between NASA and North Dakota's UAS Industry

Senator Meets With NASA Leaders Developing UAS Traffic Management Platform, Senator Also Working to Secure Beyond-Line-of-Sight Flight Approval from FAA

MOFFETT FIELD, CA – Senator John Hoeven met with the leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center to build a partnership between the center and the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems (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 test was 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.

The NASA meeting continues Hoeven’s ongoing work to support the integration of UAS into the national airspace. Earlier this month, Hoeven successfully included a provision in FAA Reauthorization Extension to extend the authorization for the nation’s UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, through September 2019. The Senate originally approved Hoeven’s provision for a five-year extension when it passed its FAA Reauthorization bill in April; however, the House didn’t pass an FAA reauthorization measure. Hoeven then worked with his colleagues to reconcile the positions of the two chambers and secured a three year UAS reauthorization even though the bill provides a one year extension for most other FAA activities.

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.