Hoeven Working to Secure North Dakota's Role in Developing Key UAS Technologies and Applications

Senator Outlines Recent Efforts & Legislative Accomplishments in Advancing UAS Industry at Monthly Drone Focus Meetup

FARGO, N.D. – At the monthly Drone Focus meetup today, Senator John Hoeven outlined his recent efforts to help advance North Dakota’s role as a leader of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research, development, training and operations. This includes:

  • Advocating for the administration to utilize the state’s UAS expertise. 
  • Safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace (NAS).
  • Advancing the development of counter-UAS technology.
  • Supporting North Dakota’s UAS missions.

“We are putting together all of the pieces to advance North Dakota’s UAS industry,” Hoeven said. “We continue to push the cutting-edge, which we demonstrated with General Atomics’ beyond visual line of sight flight earlier this year. We’re building on that success by extending the authorization for our test site and securing the state’s role in the FAA’s integration pilot program. We are also well-positioned to advance the development of counter-UAS technology. We’ve passed legislation and funding to support these efforts at the DHS, and we continue to urge the department’s leadership to make use of Grand Sky and North Dakota’s UAS industry in developing this technology. Combining all of these factors with our state’s ever-growing UAS missions, we remain a true leader in this dynamic industry.”


  • Earlier this year, Hoeven hosted U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in the state for the first flight of an unmanned aircraft to go both beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator and without a chase plane. 
  • Hoeven brought Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to Grand Sky to see the state’s UAS industry firsthand. The senator continues working through his role on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) to ensure the DHS relies on Grand Sky when expanding its UAS border security operations.


  • Hoeven secured an extension through 2023 of the UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains test site in North Dakota, in the recently-passed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.
  • The senator also joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to announce that North Dakota was selected as one of ten sites to participate in the FAA’s UAS integration pilot program.
  • General Atomics first BVLOS flight was possible due to two key items Hoeven secured in recent years, including an updated certificate of authorization for the test site from the FAA and upgrades to the DASR-11 radar system at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system in Fargo.
  • Through his role on the Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven provided $4 million for the Department of Defense in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to support the development of unmanned traffic management (UTM), in cooperation with NASA. NASA previously relied on North Dakota to test and evaluate UTM technology.


  • Hoeven helped introduce and pass the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation that protects important facilities from security risks posed by unmanned aircraft. Further, it directs the DHS to conduct research and test technology to address emerging threats stemming from the potential misuse of UAS.
  • The senator secured $13 million for counter-UAS in FY2019 funding legislation, while also directing the DHS to report on its funding needs in this area for the next five years.


  • Hoeven is advancing measures allowing both the National Guard and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use private contractors, like those at Grand Sky, to train their UAS pilots. Hoeven’s National Guard measure was signed into law last year, and his CBP provision is included in the Senate’s FY2019 funding legislation.
  • The senator secured $100 million in the FY2019 funding legislation to provide for the purchase of an additional Global Hawk aircraft to carry the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload in Grand Forks.