U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Integration Pilot Program (IPP), including the initiative in North Dakota, will begin its transition to a permanent program. Now the BEYOND program, this permanence helps ensure the state can continue to develop the technology, practices and legal framework needed to safely integrate unmanned aerial systems (UAS). North Dakota Senator Sen. John Hoeven originally worked with Chao and the FAA to launch the IPP and ensure the North Dakota Department of Transportation was selected.
The BEYOND program will allow several previous IPP locations like North Dakota to address the FAA’s most significant UAS research challenges, particularly the ability to fly beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS). North Dakota is positioned to lead in these efforts due to the Vantis network, the nation’s first statewide BVLOS network. Hoeven has worked to support these activities by:
- Advancing waivers for the North Dakota IPP, Northern Plains UAS Test Site and their private partners to conduct BVLOS flights without a chase plane on a more routine basis in a variety of settings. Prior to the waivers, the FAA had only provided limited permission for such activities under the test site’s BVLOS authorization, which Hoeven secured.
- Supporting the implementation of the technology needed to support BVLOS flights, including the DASR-11 radar system at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo. Hoeven provided funding for the radar upgrades through this role on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.
“With our advanced radar and the Vantis network, as well as the operational authorities we secured for the test site and its partners, North Dakota is set to be the first in the nation to conduct statewide UAS flights without visual observers, and the transition we are starting today will enable us to build on the important progress achieved under the Integration Pilot Program,” Senator Hoeven said. “Our UAS ecosystem is second-to-none, and we will continue working with the test site, Grand Sky, the NDDOT, our world-class universities and the administration to build the path forward for safely integrating this technology into our national airspace. That will unlock more opportunities for economic growth, good jobs for our state’s residents and a greater ability to secure our nation.”
Nicholas Flom, executive director of the North Plains UAS Test Site, added, “We are grateful for Senator Hoeven’s unwavering support for North Dakota with the FAA; it has been integral to achieving advanced BVLOS operations in the state with commercial partners like General Atomics and Xcel Energy,” Flom said. “BEYOND is a continuation of those efforts to make North Dakota the nation’s UAS epicenter – and Vantis will be an incredible tool to leverage in support of the goals of the FAA and the BEYOND program.”