Yesterday, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., led a roundtable with U.S. Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General David Goldfein and officials from Grand Sky, the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) and the North Dakota University System.
Grand Sky is North Dakota’s business and aviation park focused on developing the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.
Before the roundtable, the senator joined Goldfein and Thomas Swoyer Jr., president of the Grand Sky Development Co., on a tour of the business park.
The senator told roundtable participants that he expects the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide a Certificate of Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS test site for beyond-line-of-sight operations sometime next week.
According to Hoeven, the authorization will make the North Dakota UAS test site the first in the nation to have such operability.
The FAA’s approval would be due in part to the DASR-11 digital radar system at GFAB, the senator says. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven earlier this year secured $2 million for technical upgrades for this system and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo.
At the roundtable, Hoeven also underscored the fact that UAS are capable of gathering enormous amounts of data and are becoming increasingly important for cybersecurity and commercial applications. For example, EdgeData recently announced plans to establish a data center at Grand Sky.
“We’re leading the way in UAS, creating a one-of-a-kind facility,” the senator states. “And before the end of the year, we’ll be adding FAA authorization for beyond-line-of-sight operations, another unique capability that will enable us to safely develop concurrent Air Space use for both military and civilian operations.
“Our facility will enable FAA and DOD to work together in one location. We’ll be able to do research, testing, training and deployment without chase aircraft statewide across North Dakota. That can’t be done anyplace else in the country and will give us a competitive edge,” he says.