See how we follow a step-by-step process for UAS flight testing, readiness and operational planning for client projects.


Anyone that needs UAS flight for research. This includes public or private entities.

There are a few ways contracts with the NPUASTS can be generated. University research partnerships can be set up with NDSU and/or UND who can contract with the Test Site. Another option is that a client can work directly with the Test Site to develop a contract. This process also organizes incoming responses and distributes requests to proper individuals, generates an NDA (if needed), shaping of a project idea that utilizes UAS as well as the Test Site, generating a draft statement of work and executive summary.

This team consists of personnel from all divisions of the NPUASTS as well as the Principle Investigator and Mission Commander. The Integrated Test Team (ITT) meeting is designed to bring together all Divisions of the NPUASTS to discuss how the Test Site will proceed forward with administering to a research project and Test Site User. The ITT is the starting phase of performing work through the building process of getting a Test Site User to flight execution. The ITT will examine the formal document to identify processes needed to execute the flight and identify specialized considerations needed for the project.

Detailed test planning starts with identification of research objectives to be accomplished with a given UAS configuration, with extension to integrated detailed test plans and cards for each individual flight.

All flight crewmembers will be required to have initial and recurrent qualifications that are tracked using UND Aerospace's Aviation Information Management System (AIMS). It is required that the NPUASTS maintain operational control of all test site related UAS flight operations as per the OTA. Operational control will be assured by adherence to published NPUASTS Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and compliance will be ensured by the Mission Commander.

The guidance of FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 16 and the Obstruction Evaluation/Airport Airspace Analysis (OE/AAA) system are utilized as key elements in requesting a COA. The Airspace Manager coordinates and centralizes the efforts to ensure completion. Additionally, the Airspace Manager is responsible for coordinating Letters of Authorization (LOAs) required by the local ATC facility.

The purpose of the NPUASTS Airworthiness Program is to establish a safe, consistent, and repeatable approach to evaluating the airworthiness of Unmanned Aircraft Systems operated within the test site. All UAS, to include public and civil systems, operated under the authority of NPUASTS Certificates of Authorization (COA) or Waiver are subject to this airworthiness process. Statements of airworthiness contained in NPUASTS COAs shall be based on the results of this process. The NPUASTS Airworthiness Program is based on a multi-disciplinary, risk-based approach incorporating the latest guidance issued by the FAA. The airworthiness process encompasses initial and ongoing airworthiness of systems being operated at the NPUASTS. The NPUASTS has engaged the services of FAA Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR-F) to pursue Experimental Airworthiness Certification for a variety of UAS platforms.

The UAS RCC will be utilized to address public privacy and ethical concerns of any UAS research project that is performed in the test site. The UAS RCC will provide input and concerns that may need to be addressed when flight execution occurs.

The ISRB is an unbiased evaluation of the safety of the proposed operation. The ISRB will review and provide an independent validation of the risk assessment of the proposed flight activities conducted by the NPUASTS. No flight mission may be executed without prior approval of the ISRB. The ISRB is responsible for assuring the NPUASTS is configured and operated with safety as its highest priority. The ISRB will use the Safety Management System (SMS) risk-based approach when making its decisions.

The Flight Readiness Review Board (FRRB) is the final technical and risk assessment review used to ensure compliance with FAA regulations and guidance, test site OTA, ISRB outcomes, Standard Operating Procedures, and NPUASTS policy. The primary functions of the FRRB are to review and approve the applicant's Test Plan and ensure compliance with the provisions outlined in the ISRB. Preparation for the review will be a tailored approach involving technical input and representation from each necessary discipline (engineering, operations, training, facilities, logistics, maintenance, and as required by the Director of Operations). The FRRB utilizes the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) document as a guide for gaining operational approval.

The NPUASTS mission commander leads up and oversees a pre-flight brief that is performed before every mission to ensure the systems are ready to fly and if any precautions are identified through the NPUASTS process, these have been addressed.

The flight execution section indicates the actual UAS research flight. After the flight execution a flight debrief will be held to determine if any changes are needed to the system to continue flight. If multiple flights are to occur without change to the configuration, then the process will circle back to the Pre-Flight Check. If minor configuration changes are to occur, then the process will need to go through another Flight Readiness Review. If major changes are needed, then the process will have to go back to the ITT to determine if the COA, Airworthiness, Crew Qualifications, etc. have changed and proceed through another ISRB and FRR before another flight could take place. Definitions of minor and major changes are outlined within the NPUASTS configuration control plan.

Non-flight execution includes those projects that do not require UAS flight. These projects are generally run through the University system and not necessarily through the test site. If these projects are part of a phased approach that would lead to UAS flights down the road, it would be desired to have some NPUASTS involvement so that the staff of the NPUASTS are aware of the research that has lead up to UAS flights when they occur. Another example is simulation research that may have direct links to FAA goals and objectives, but do not require flight. It is a desire of the test site to be able to access some of the research results to report to the FAA to aid in UAS NAS integration.

Data is collected throughout the interaction with the client. Primarily the data collected to obtain a COA is provided to the FAA. Other data collected during and after flights are determined to be part of three different categories that either allow or restrict sharing of that data. If an accident occurs, this is included in data that must be reported and an accident investigation will need to be performed. Data collected during this investigation will be available to the FAA. It is the desire of the NPUASTS to integrate a data stream from the UAS GCS to our data collection software so that we can gather the needed telemetry and system data in case anomalies or accidents occur.

The NPUASTS will provide the needed information and data requested by the FAA in agreement with the OTA and Test Site Users NDA/Contracts. The Research & Development Division will manage the analysis and reporting required by the OTA, including quarterly, annual, and final reports. The Research & Development Division will aggregate data analysis results and organize that information to properly be represented in the provided reports. Any other additional data reporting desires will be approached on an as-needed basis.

A debrief after each flight will be conducted to identify, if any, modifications to the test plans/cards, aircraft, GCS, etc. are required before next flight. The level of required changes will dictate if another ISRB is needed prior to the next flight execution. This will be determined by using the Test Site's change configuration plan.