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Fri, Dec 30, 2016

FAA Approves North Dakota Drone Test Site For BVLOS Testing

First In The Nation To Be Authorized For Flights Beyond Visual Line Of Site

The FAA has granted a certificate of authorization to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to begin flight testing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

The agency on Wednesday notified Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) that it had 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 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.

(Source: Senator Hoeven news release. Image from Northern Plains Test Site website)

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.npuasts.com

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