Sanford joins Air Force Secretary Wilson for first beyond-visual-line-of-sight flight at Northern Plains UAS Test Site

Monday, August 20, 2018 - 12:00pm

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Authority, joined U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and other officials today to observe the first flight of a large UAS beyond visual line of sight without the use of a chase plane in controlled airspace at Grand Sky technology park.

The flight comes one week after Sen. John Hoeven announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks to conduct flights of General Atomics’ Predator UAS within 30 nautical miles of Grand Sky by using radar systems to monitor the aircraft. Last week, General Atomics announced plans to more than triple its footprint at Grand Sky.

“Today’s history-making flight further cements our position as a national leader in the UAS industry and sends a strong signal that North Dakota is the place to be for UAS business,” said Sanford, who spoke at today’s event. “We’re incredibly grateful to Secretary Wilson for being here to witness this momentous flight and for the public-private partnership with the Grand Forks Air Force Base that helped make this landmark achievement possible. Congratulations to Grand Sky, General Atomics, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and everyone who worked for nearly three years to reach this milestone.”

Sanford highlighted the flight as one of two areas where North Dakota is staking ground as a UAS leader. In May, the FAA selected the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) to be one of 10 participants in its UAS Integration Pilot Program. The NDDOT, working with more than 30 public, private and tribal partners including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, will work on policy that can safely advance UAS operations, including beyond visual line of sight, flights over people and night operations. Last week, the NDDOT and test site announced they had successfully completed the first series of flight tests of UAS for potential flight over a group of people in controlled airspace, working in partnership with CNN, Botlink and ParaZero.