Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven, Congressman Rick Berg and Governor Jack Dalrymple today made the case to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that North Dakota is well equipped to serve as a testing ground for future UAS development and training, including integrating UAS activity into the National Airspace System.
In a letter to Michael P. Huerta, the Acting Administrator for the FAA, the delegation cited North Dakota's relatively unencumbered air space, low population density and geographic location as the key criteria for selecting the FAA's six test ranges for the integration of UAS into the national airspace system. The FAA has already begun the process of establishing key criteria upon which the decisions to base these testing centers will be made.
"Unlike some states that have only recently discovered their interest in UAS, our state has long been a leader in aviation, and seized on the potential of UAS a decade ago. Customs and Border Patrol, military and university efforts build on each other in a place with the uncongested airspace and low population density necessary to ensure testing can be done with minimum risk," the delegation wrote to Administrator Huerta.
The delegation argued that special consideration should be given to regions with an established commitment to UAS research and development.
"Given the strong commitment to UAS research at the University of North Dakota and ongoing operations by the Customs and Border Patrol, the North Dakota Air National Guard, and the Air Force at Grand Forks Air Force Base, the state would be a natural fit for this program," the delegation said in a joint statement.
The FAA is scheduled to announce the selection criteria for the six test ranges later this summer before announcing the sites in late 2012 and early 2013.