First FAA-Mandated Test Site in North Dakota

Jamie JohansenAerial Application, Aerial Imagery, Agribusiness, technology, UAV

auvsiThis week, North Dakota aerospace and aviation leaders are in Orlando, Fla. for the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2014 conference. The delegation will be at the show to discuss how the nation’s first operational unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site is advancing research and supporting businesses in this growing industry.

“Not only does North Dakota have the long-term UAS operational history with experience, programs and resources, but it is now leading the industry as the FAA’s first mandated test site,” said Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley who also serves as chairman of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority.

Just this month, the FAA granted the North Dakota Department of Commerce a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES small UAS at its Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta was in North Dakota to make the announcement.

“The precision agriculture industry represents a significant growth opportunity for the UAS-industry with estimates that 25 million acres of farmland will be using UAS by the end of this year,” said Robert Becklund, executive director of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. “With 89 percent of the state composed of farmland, this was a natural fit for our capabilities.”

The University of North Dakota was the first university to offer a degree program in unmanned aviation in 2009 and is working in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to create a curriculum that will incorporate the state-of-the-art UAS Predator Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS) simulator.

North Dakota has invested over $19 million to advance UAS research and development and is collaborating with organization statewide In addition, the state’s Research ND program matches up to $300,000 in research dollars to organizations and companies involved in UAS research.