FAA authorizes Northern Plains UAS Test Site to fly BVLOS

By Patrick C. Miller | August 15, 2018

The Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in controlled airspace out of the Grand Sky technology park located at the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Air Force Base.

The FAA-approved UAS test site—in collaboration with the FAA, United States Air Force, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Harris Corp. and Grand Sky—has been working closely over the past three years to achieve this milestone. This means large UAS can fly without chase planes within a 30-nautical-mile radius in the airspace around Grand Sky.

“This approval is a combination of collaboration, innovation and perseverance,” said Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains site. “We would not have been able to achieve this without our industry partners and the willingness from the FAA and U.S. Air Force to work together to achieve this success.”

The General Atomics Predator A and Predator B remotely piloted aircraft will be able to fly without chase aircraft by leveraging a ground-based radar system of the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

On Monday, Aug. 20, an event and ceremony will be held at Grand Sky to recognize the first BVLOS flight from the facility. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson will be in attendance. Attendees will view the flight via a real-time radar display. General Atomics, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of large UAS and a tenant at Grand Sky, will conduct the flight.

Other attendees will include: U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.; North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford; General Atomics and Harris Corp. executives; federal, state and local officials; military dignitaries; and UAS industry members

“This milestone is not only beneficial to North Dakota, but to the whole UAS community,” Flom said. “We look forward to expanding our capabilities and partners who will leverage this approval.”