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08/15/2019 05:11 PM

Northern Plains UAS Test Site Receives Waiver for Beyond Visual Line of Sight for Flight Operations Over Urban Areas in North Dakota

Waiver supports multiple authorizations, including flying urban BVLOS operations under the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program

GRAND FORKS, ND – Northern Plains UAS Test Site has been granted a one-year waiver from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight in a populated urban area.  The waiver allows use of UAS to conduct inspections of power distribution lines within a city using electronic observation technology for both daytime and night operations. This is part of North Dakota Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program, designed to permit safe integration of UAS (drones) into national airspace.

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford stated, “This is another example of the cutting-edge innovation in UAS technology and energy industries occurring in North Dakota through collaboration between private industry, NDDOT, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the FAA through the IPP program.”

“Receiving an advanced approval like this is years in the making that required strong partners, a forward leaning FAA, and dedication to assure that safety stays our top priority,” said Nicholas Flom, Executive Director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “We believe that through the IPP and Test Site program that North Dakota is establishing a path for advanced UAS operations for the rest of industry.”

The North Dakota UAS team (NDDOT and NPUASTS) are working in partnership with Airbus Aerial and Xcel Energy on safe operations of drones to inspect Xcel Energy’s distribution lines in an urban area. This mission will take place in the Grand Forks area as the team also works in collaboration with other partners, including Echodyne, Grand Sky Development Company, Harris Corporation, SkySkopes, senseFly, and ASSURE Research Team.

“Our work on unmanned aircraft systems with our numerous partners demonstrates that collaboration benefits customers, the economy and the environment,” said Kent Larson, executive vice president and group president of operations for Xcel Energy. “This waiver is a significant step forward as we build on our industry leading use of drones to improve the safety and reliability of the electrical grid. North Dakota is a national pioneer in developing new ways to use drone technology, and we thank our partners for their collaboration and support.”

“UAS are a critical aspect of the future of aviation in America – and, in fact, globally. We are honored to be a part of such an important, historic effort, “said Jesse Kallman, President of Airbus Aerial.

U.S. DOT selected the North Dakota Department of Transportation as one of 10 participants in the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program. NDDOT and NPUASTS are working together with partners and stakeholders to accomplish North Dakota’s pilot program mission to provide operational efficiencies, create new opportunities, build industry to grow the economy, reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The three-year program gives state, local and tribal governments a chance to establish innovation zones for testing complex UAS operations.

The State of North Dakota is a leader in transportation and UAS advancement. The UAS Integration Pilot Program technology will enhance North Dakota in many areas such as pipeline or infrastructure inspections, traffic crash reconstruction, and emergency response during a life-threatening event in rural areas, such as finding a missing person in the Badlands or on lakes and rivers. For more information on North Dakota’s UAS Integration Pilot Program visit our webpage at


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