FAA choses North Dakota to test unmanned aircraft systems

Farm Forum

At the end of December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that North Dakota was designated as one of the six test sites for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The sites that will assist in research integrating unmanned aircraft with manned aircraft in the national airspace.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley have led the state’s efforts to establish a national UAS test site in North Dakota. The state has invested more than $14 million to advance UAS research and development.

“The FAA’s decision to locate one of only six national UAS test sites in North Dakota is good news for our state and for the entire nation,” Dalrymple said.

Not only does North Dakota have unencumbered airspace, but the Grand Forks region, where the test site will be established, is also home to a thriving private UAS industry, Grand Forks Air Force Base and the University of North Dakota. In addition, the state has been extremely proactive in addressing privacy concerns by establishing the nation’s first-ever UAS Research Compliance Committee tasked to oversee, review and approve the use of UAS for research at UND.

Robert Becklund is currently overseeing the efforts of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site and will direct the activities associated with the Test Site.

While UAS have recently been in the news related to this month’s announcement from Amazon that the company would eventually like to distribute packages by UAS technologies, Becklund mentioned that other industries outside of logistics would benefit from the testing and eventual integration.

“In addition to agricultural surveying, exploring areas affected by natural disasters and helping with search and rescue efforts, the safe integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace will lead to a wide variety of other commercial applications,” Becklund said. “Unmanned aircraft have the potential to be less expensive and more efficient than manned aircraft in many instances.”