FAA Bill Also Supports Essential Air Service for Communities Across the State

Washington — Last night, the U.S. Senate passed legislation introduced by Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven that will help increase unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations and training in North Dakota.

The Conrad - Hoeven amendment was approved as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which passed by a 87-8 margin. The legislation will modernize the air transit system and invest in airport improvements in North Dakota and across the nation.

Senators Hoeven and Conrad said the bill was a big win for North Dakota and they applauded the passage of their amendment noting that it "will further boost North Dakota's potential to be a national hub for UAS training and operation."

The Conrad - Hoeven amendment authorizes the FAA to move forward in coordination with the military to develop concurrent or layered airspace for UAS flight in the National Airspace System (NAS). It amends earlier language as drafted by Senator Conrad and former senator Byron Dorgan.

The amendment also calls on the FAA to develop national certification and flight standards for UAS, including the Department of Defense’s responsibility to assure safety for civilian aircraft, while still achieving the training needed for military aircraft to preserve our national security.

In addition, the amendment establishes six UAS test sites and training centers across the nation. Senators Conrad and Hoeven have been pressing for one of the centers to be based in North Dakota in an effort to increase the potential for the state to become a national hub for UAS operations.

Grand Forks Air Force Base will be the home to twoclasses of unmanned aircraft, the Predator and the Global Hawk, and is slated to become a major center for unmanned aircraft training and operations missions next year.

The FAA bill also provides continued support for Essential Air Service (EAS), which will improve access to air travel at regional airports throughout North Dakota, providing a boost to local economies.