–The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation
Administration announced that the first of six test sites
chosen to perform unmanned aircraft systems research is
operational more than two-and-a-half months ahead of the deadline
specified for the program by Congress.
The FAA today granted the
North Dakota Department of Commerce team a Certificate of Waiver or
Authorization to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES small UAS at
its Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. The COA is
effective for two years. The team plans to begin flight operations
during the week of May 5.
“North Dakota has really taken the lead
in supporting the growing unmanned aircraft industry,” said
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to the
contributions they and the other test sites will make toward our efforts
to ensure the safe and efficient integration of UAS into our nation’s
The main goal of this site’s initial operations is to
show that UAS can check soil quality and the status of crops in support
of North Dakota State University/Extension Service precision agriculture
research studies. Precision agriculture is one of many industries that
represent areas for significant economic opportunity and UAS-industry
While supporting the precision agriculture project,
the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site also will
collect safety-related operational data needed for UAS airspace
integration. The information will help the FAA analyze current processes
for establishing small UAS airworthiness and system maturity.
Maintenance data collected during site operations will support a
prototype database for UAS maintenance and repair.
will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe
operations of UAS,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who was in
North Dakota today to announce the news. “We believe the test site
programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and
fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.”
The North Dakota COA covers two separate geographical locations. Initial
flights will be conducted over North Dakota State University’s
Carrington Research Extension Center located in Carrington, N.D. The
second set of missions, scheduled for summer 2014, will fly over Sullys
Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake, N.D.
selected six congressionally mandated test sites on Dec, 30,
2013.The FAA is working with the test sites to guide their research
programs to help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace
over the next several years. The others are in Alaska, Nevada, Texas, New York and Virginia.