Grand Forks Air Force Base conducts airspace integration test

By Patrick C. Miller | August 27, 2014

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base was the site for the first Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Integration Test in the country earlier this month.

The FAA authorized two UAVs to operate simultaneously in a traffic pattern of unrestricted airspace. Two MQ-9 Predators of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew in the same airspace while monitored by Air Force air traffic controllers.

"To be first to have two unmanned aircraft in the same airspace is something we wanted to do for a while," said Jeffrey Deem, CBP lead flight operations specialist. "Having that restriction off, we are able to have positive outcomes for both the Air Force and Customs and Border Protection."

The test—a year and a half in planning—included multiple manned and unmanned aircraft, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40, a King Air 200 and a UC-35 Citation.

Among those observing the test was Jim Williams, manager of the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, which is responsible for integrating UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).

Participants included about 100 military and civilian team members from the FAA, the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol, CBP, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and the North Dakota Air National Guard.

The base also hosted an event for civilians from both the public and private sectors to learn more about UAS and their benefits.

"The success of this event is a testament to the collaborative efforts of all these organizations and countless number of people working together towards a common goal of taking our nation's unmanned aircraft systems program to the next level," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Erik Siegel, UAS Airspace Integration Joint Test chief.