BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum welcomed news today that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks to fly large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight without a chase plane, a major milestone in the test site’s history.
The two-year FAA authorization means the test site can fly large UAS beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator within 30 nautical miles of the Grand Sky UAS technology park without a manned airplane following the UAS to observe the flight, Sen. John Hoeven announced this morning. U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson will visit North Dakota on Aug. 20 to witness the first BVLOS flight at Grand Sky.
“This approval further solidifies North Dakota’s well-deserved reputation as a national leader in UAS development and testing,” Burgum said. “Our state has invested tens of millions of dollars into UAS research and development, helping to attract more than 20 UAS-related companies to the region, and the approval announced today sends a clear message that North Dakota is the place to be for cutting-edge UAS activity.”
“Congratulations to Executive Director Nick Flom and the entire team at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, as well as Grand Sky, for their hard work in securing this game-changing approval that was three years in the making,” said Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority. “We’re grateful to Sen. Hoeven for his vision and leadership on this issue and to the FAA for recognizing the enormous potential and capability of the test site and Grand Sky, which announced last week that General Atomics will more than triple its presence in the park.”
The Burgum-Sanford administration continues to strongly encourage North Dakota’s UAS sector, supporting efforts by public and private partners to advance innovative technologies. In May, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the North Dakota Department of Transportation was selected as one of 10 participants in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program. Last month, Burgum joined Vice President Mike Pence for a tour and roundtable at Grand Forks Air Force Base, where the vice president highlighted the important role UAS plays in our national defense. Burgum also formed a UAS Detection and Counter-UAS Task Force last year to support development of technologies to detect UAS and counter the nefarious use of UAS, a rapidly growing field.