Senator John Hoeven today said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is on track to select six unmanned aerial system (UAS) pilot sites by the end of the year to integrate remotely piloted aircraft into the National Airspace. Hoeven was briefed by Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta Tuesday on the status of the process and the timeline for selection.
The FAA Reauthorization bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in February included an amendment, introduced by Hoeven and Senator Kent Conrad, that directs the agency to work with the military to integrate UAS into the National Airspace (NAS). Hoeven's amendment instructs the FAA Administrator to develop six pilot test sites as part of a program for safely flying manned and unmanned aircraft concurrently in the NAS. The legislation requires the FAA to consider geographical and climatic diversity, as well as the location of ground infrastructure, in naming the test sites.
Huerta said the FAA is using a tiered process over several months to evaluate locations for the pilot projects. At present the public comment period has closed and the agency is preparing to issue by the end of July or the beginning of August a Screening Information Request, similar to a Request for Proposals, inviting jurisdictions to apply. Huerta said he expects the agency to make decisions on the sites by the end of the year.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure that Grand Forks is selected as one of six pilot sites in the country to integrate UAS flight into concurrent air space," Hoeven said. "The pilot sites represent a huge opportunity for the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the university and the high-tech businesses that have been clustering in the area to support UAS operations. As the premier northern UAS hub, our state's UAS community has done an outstanding job to ensure we are well positioned to be named one of the six test sites."
Hoeven worked, as both governor and now U.S. Senator, with the state's UAS community to establish and maintain North Dakota's leadership in UAS technologies and to grow operations in the Grand Forks region.