WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved a certificate of authorization (COA) for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee unmanned aircraft operations that go beyond the line of sight of the operator. The senator worked to secure approval of this request from the FAA.
The North Dakota test site is the first in the nation to have such beyond-line-of-sight operability. This means the test site will be able to support the development, testing and evaluation of a wide range of new applications for UAS technology, giving the state a competitive edge. “The FAA’s approval of this COA is a major step forward for North Dakota and the UAS industry in general because UAS will have to be able to fly beyond the line of sight in order to operate concurrently with piloted aircraft in the National Air Space,” Hoeven said. “This authorization will help companies like General Atomics, Northrop Grumman and future tenants at the Grand Sky technology park test and evaluate complex UAS operations possible nowhere else in the nation. It also makes North Dakota an attractive place for government agencies like NASA, the Air Force and the Department of Homeland Security to integrate UAS into the national airspace system.”
North Dakota is ideally suited to support beyond line of sight operations with the combination of an FAA test site, the Grand Sky Technology Park and Grand Forks Air Force Base, which hosts the Global
Hawk unmanned aircraft system. Grand Forks Air Force Base uses a DASR-11 digital radar system. The system helps operators track unmanned aircraft so they can fly safely even when beyond the sight of the UAS operator. Hoeven secured
funding for upgrades to this system and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo earlier this year as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site will continue to use a chase plane until the Grand Sky Technology Park implements a scheduled software upgrade to its system so that it can link to the DASR-11 radar at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Speaking to sUAS News, Matt Dunlevy SkySkopes President said, “This is great news for not only North Dakota and SkySkopes but for the entire UAS industry. With BVLOS capabilities, the work done here in Grand Forks will help the industry progress and expand.”