Northern Plains UAS Test Site Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

Northern Plains UAS Test Site Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

Apr 22, 2024

FAA-Designated Test Site and Leaders to Join Presentations at AUVSI XPONENTIAL 

GRAND FORKS, North Dakota – Known for results and innovation, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site marks its 10th anniversary this year. The Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site provides a crucial collaboration with the FAA and the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) industry, developing systems, rules, and procedures to safely integrate UAS into the National Airspace System.

Since its FAA designation in December 2013, the NPUASTS has empowered and supported North Dakota’s UAS ecosystem through important services for this growing industry, including UAS research, consulting, flight testing and providing access to facilities and assets. Helping mark this anniversary, the NPUASTS is taking active part in UAS and autonomy conferences, including this month’s AUVSI XPONENTIAL, where Test Site leaders will be leading and joining presentations throughout the week.

“We’re proud to bring the experience and passion to support UAS growth here and throughout the industry,” said NPUASTS Executive Director Trevor Woods. “This team has an unmatched level of expertise that’s created new initiatives, shaped regulations and policy, and driven technological advancements. We have been an important partner to many in realizing our airspace’s potential and helping operators achieve their autonomy goals.”

“As we enter our second decade, we continue to provide assistance to local, state and tribal governments, unlocking capabilities for every community. We will lead technology-forward actions throughout the nation, and be a trusted partner with the Department of Defense in protecting the country.”

AUVSI XPONENTIAL Events and Presentations

Our team will be at AUVSI XPONENTIAL from April 22-25 at the San Diego Convention Center, and available to connect at Booth #5318. Attendees are invited to learn more from NPUASTS experts at presentations throughout the week.

Tuesday, April 23, 2:30 p.m. PDT

           Elevating Aviation Cybersecurity

           Chris Theisen, Director of Research and Development

Wednesday, April 24, 10:30 a.m. PDT

           Shaping Tomorrow: North Dakota’s FAA Exemption

           Erin Roesler, Deputy Executive Director

Thursday, April 25, 11:30 a.m. PDT

           Transforming Healthcare Access: MHA Nation’s Drone Delivery Initiative

           Landon Johnson, Project Manager

Thursday, April 25, 11 a.m. PDT

           Vantis: Revolutionizing UAS Operations Through Shared Infrastructure

           Trevor Woods, Executive Director

Decade of Discovery

The NPUASTS has been an integral member of the FAA’s UAS program from the beginning, with North Dakota’s diverse airspace, defense and aviation history, and mix of rural and urban areas, all proving to be important factors in its designation as one of the original six UAS Test Sites.

Since then, the NPUASTS has succeeded in passing milestones throughout, including

  • 2013 – Receives FAA UAS Test Site designation
  • 2014 – First UAS flights
  • 2015 – Receives FAA Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) designation
  • 2015 – Begins work with NASA on various projects
  • 2015 – Starts network infrastructure concept, later becoming Vantis, a NPUASTS-administered program
  • 2018 – Selected as part of FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP) to test and evaluate integration of civil and public drones into the NAS
  • 2019 – Awarded FAA UAS traffic management Pilot Program (UPP)
  • 2018 – Begins true beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights
  • 2019 – Vantis receives state authorization, launches in 2020
  • 2020 – Selected for UAS BEYOND program, the next phase of FAA’s UAS pilot program
  • 2021 – First Vantis UAS flights
  • 2022 – Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) opens outside Grand Forks
  • 2023 – Granted FAA waivers for NPUASTS-supported BVLOS flights

How We Help UAS

Our research has moved the needle in UAS and autonomy, advancing the industry in counter UAS, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), networked infrastructure, Detect and Avoid (DAA), Command and Control (C2), UAS and weather, UAS traffic management, Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) operations, and UAS at airports.  

We consult and offer assistance on waivers, exemptions, Certificates of Authorizations; and training and third-party validations. Our experts provide feedback on how companies build and develop drone programs including sharing best practices to design test and evaluation events to maximize results.

We support UAS flight testing and BVLOS flights within our airspace. We conduct our own flights and act as mission commanders, data collectors for others. We facilitate full-scale UAS operations in partnerships with GrandSKY, Grand Forks AFB, Gorman Field, North Dakota National Guard, and research universities. We have great working relationships with facilities across the state and with others in the UAS ecosystem that provide access to unique spaces and mobile test facilities.


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