On January 4 the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site announced approval from the FAA for execution of a phased approach to operate large unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in North Dakota using ground-based sense-and-avoid technologies. This authorization, granted under the FAA’s authorization process, outlines the path for unique testing and flight operations that are not widely available in the national airspace.
“North Dakota will be the first state to implement this phased approach to unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight, reinforcing its well-deserved reputation as a national leader in aviation and UAS research,” said Governor Doug Burgum. “The state’s significant financial commitment to UAS research and development continues to pay dividends as we strive to diversify the economy through innovation and emerging technologies.”
The authorization allows a large-platform UAS to take off from the Grand Sky UAS Business Park at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, with defined conditions to remove the need for a manned chase aircraft.
“Defining the requirements to remove the need for a chase aircraft to conduct long-range flights at higher altitudes is another step closer to fully integrating UAS into the National Airspace System,” said Nick Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “This approval signifies how the Test Site program, in collaboration with the FAA, is supporting industry development and enables North Dakota to continue to be the premier location for industry to conduct research related to UAS.”
The approval was based on a concept of operations that was developed in collaboration with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, industry partners, the local and regional air traffic community, and the FAA.