Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program

NDDOT Selected For UAS Pilot Program

U.S. DOT has announced that the NDDOT has been selected as one of 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, an initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones in America. “We are looking forward to helping today’s winners unlock the enormous potential of drone operations, which will create new services and jobs in their local communities,” Secretary Chao said. The three-year Drone Integration Pilot Program will enable agencies to work on policy that can safely advance UAS operations, including beyond visual line of sight, flights over people and night operations. As the lead applicant and program manager in North Dakota, the NDDOT will work with partners and stakeholders from across the state including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks and city, state and tribal agencies. “Today’s announcement further cements North Dakota’s position as a national leader in transportation and UAS advancement,” Gov. Doug Burgum said.


Program Overview

The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) is an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration. The program will help the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations by

Identifying ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration Improving communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions Addressing security and privacy risks Accelerating the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations. The Program is expected foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration, and provide actionable information to the USDOT on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

The final awardees will evaluate a host of operational concepts, including night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot's line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft. Fields that could see immediate opportunities from the program include commerce, photography, emergency management, agricultural support and infrastructure inspections.

Integration Pilot Program Awardees

North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND

North Dakota Department of Transportation

Proposal Description:

The proposal includes a wide variety of diverse operations that incorporate advanced technologies that seek to expand UAS operations at night and Beyond Visual Line of Sight. The proposal will focus on data from four criteria: external systems, aircraft system technologies, training requirements, and processes and procedures.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

Operations will be in multiple types of airspaces ranging from rural to urban areas. Working with experienced UAS research partners will lead to scalable operations for a multitude of UAS industries including linear infrastructure inspections, crop health monitoring, and media reporting and emergency response.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Proposal Description:

The proposal focuses on agricultural, public safety and infrastructure inspections, with planned Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations over people and nighttime operations.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The proposal highlights plans to invest in mobile ground-based detect and avoid radars and advanced weather infrastructure. The awardee, along with partners CNN and the Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory, has an aggressive 90-day schedule for high-profile Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) and night operations. The data obtained from these operations will be broadly applicable, and could extend to a wide range of operations and geographical locations.

City of San Diego, CA

City of San Diego

Proposal Description:

The proposal focuses on border protection and package delivery of food, with a secondary focus on international commerce, Smart City/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The awardee will conduct UAS operations and examine new technologies not in use today by leveraging its indoor testing facilities and various drone landing stations and ports. The proposal would employ a variety of available communications technologies, including 5G test networks and the 4G LTE cellular network and AT&T's national first responder network authority (FirstNet.) These UAS operations will provide solid data to improve UAS specific ID & Tracking systems, necessary for UAS integration into the National Airspace System.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, VA

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority

Proposal Description:

The proposal seeks to facilitate package delivery in rural and urban settings. Its includes the use of enabling technologies such as detect and avoid, Identification and tracking, radar systems, and mapping tools.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The awardee seeks to leverage existing expertise through partnerships with the Virginia Tech UAS Test Site, NASA, and stakeholders with cyber security expertise. Data obtained through these diverse operations and varied operating environments will provide significant, scalable benefits to the agency and industry.

Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS

Kansas Department of Transportation

Proposal Description:

The proposal deploys UAS to support beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in rural communities. It seeks to leverage a statewide unmanned traffic management system to facilitate precision agriculture operations.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

Operations will use a range of technologies, such as detect and avoid, ADS-B, satellite communications and geo-fencing. The program will use existing in-state resources such as fiber optic networks and UAS Traffic Management (UTM). The awardee has a robust community involvement plan that supports the diverse operations that are planned.

Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL

Lee County Mosquito Control District

Proposal Description:

The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveil the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The proposal includes scalable solutions that take into account a broad range of current and future technologies that include ground-based detect and avoid radar systems that would integrate ADS-B, infrared imaging and satellite technology. The proposal includes night operations, BVLOS and operations over people.

Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN

Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority

Proposal Description:

The proposal focuses on the inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations that support airport operations such as perimeter security surveillance and package delivery. Proposed operations include working with a UTM concept that would also work with manned air traffic.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

Teaming with FedEx and Agricenter International, the awardee would support an integrated environment of urban, airport, private property and farmland that would yield an estimated $500 million annual benefit to the economy. Data collected would not only serve UAS, but work with normal air traffic truly advancing integration.

North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Department of Transportation

Proposal Description:

The proposal seeks to test localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations in local communities. This approach enables small businesses to utilize this delivery platform for commercial purposes.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The proposal seeks to operate over human beings, beyond visual line of sight and at night, and seeks to use a variety of technological tools to enable these advanced operations. Tools include ADS-B, detect and avoid technologies, UTM and radar technologies. The data collected from these diverse operations will significantly enhance safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System.

The City of Reno, NV

The City of Reno

Proposal Description:

The proposal focuses on the time-sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment, such as medical defibrillators in emergency situations in both urban and rural environments.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The awardee will integrate additional infrastructure such as radar and weather data in order to expand the UAS capability so it could save up to 28-34 lives per year, using one drone in a three-mile city radius. This proposal considers a nationwide scalable model for medical delivery operations and has several commercial medical partners.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK

University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Proposal Description:

The proposal's primary focus is pipeline inspection and surveying in remote areas and harsh climatic conditions, but it has proposed a broad range of other types of operations in urban and rural areas, ranging from public safety to UAS detection.

Project Highlights and Benefits:

The awardee uses enabling technologies that include collision avoidance, detect and avoid day and night, ADS-B, differential GPS, satellite services, infrared imaging and UTM. Operations in remote areas provide a unique opportunity to evaluate data on several advanced technologies. The unique climate and operating environment also provide an opportunity not available to other awardees.

Integration Pilot Program Partners


  • Point of Contact: Sezen Jones
  • Entity: Private Sector

Adams Communication & Engineering Technology (ACET)

  • Point of Contact: Joseph d’Hedouville
  • Entity: Private Sector

Airbus Americas Inc. & Airbus Aerial

  • Point of Contact: Jesse Kallman
  • Entity: Private Sector

Altavian, Inc

  • Point of Contact: Thomas Rambo
  • Entity: Private Sector


  • Point of Contact: David Batcheller
  • Entity: Private Sector


  • Point of Contact: Adam Mohamed
  • Entity: Private Sector


  • Point of Contact: Terri Zimmerman
  • Entity: Private Sector

Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department

  • Point of Contact: Tom Schroeder
  • Entity: Local

CNN - Cable News Network

  • Point of Contact: Greg Agvent
  • Entity: Private Sector


  • Point of Contact: Mo Swanson
  • Entity: Private Sector

Grand Forks Regional Economic Dev.

  • Point of Contact: Wes Shover
  • Entity: Local

Grand Sky Development Company

  • Point of Contact: Tom Swoyer
  • Entity: Private Sector

Harris Corporation

  • Point of Contact: James Ziarno
  • Entity: Private Sector

Iridium Satellite LLC

  • Point of Contact: Tim Last
  • Entity: Private Sector

Morton County Sheriff’s Department

  • Point of Contact: Josh Selle
  • Entity: Local

North Dakota Department of Commerce

  • Point of Contact: Michelle Kommer
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Department of Emergency Services

  • Point of Contact: Sean Johnson
  • Entity: State

North Dakota League of Cities

  • Point of Contact: Blake Crosby
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

  • Point of Contact: Kyle Wanner
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Aviation Council (General Aviation)

  • Point of Contact: Bob Simmers
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Game and Fish Department

  • Point of Contact: Terry Steinwand
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Highway Patrol

  • Points of Contact: Dennis Gallagher & Shannon Henke
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission

  • Point of Contact: Scott Davis
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Lt. Governor Office

  • Point of Contact: Brent Sanford
  • Entity: State

North Dakota National Guard, Office of the Adjutant General

  • Point of Contact: Lee Nordin
  • Entity: State

North Dakota Safety Council

  • Point of Contact: Chuck Clairmont
  • Entity: Private Sector

North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS)

  • Point of Contact: Harvey Link
  • Entity: State

North Dakota State Office of Adjutant General

  • Points of Contact: Alan Dohrmann & Robert Becklund
  • Entity: State

North Dakota State University (NDSU)

  • Point of Contact: Jane Schuh & Aaron Reinholz
  • Entity: State

Northeast Regional UAS Team (Grand Forks Police)

  • Point of Contact: Michael Gavere
  • Entity: Local

Northern Plains UAS Test Site

  • Point of Contact: Nicholas Flom
  • Entity: State


  • Point of Contact: Avi Lozowick
  • Entity: Private Sector

Regulus Cyber

  • Point of Contact: Yoav Zangvil
  • Entity: Private Sector

Rockwell Collins

  • Point of Contact: Boe Svatek
  • Entity: Private Sector

senseFly (Parrot Group)

  • Point of Contact: Troy Hittle
  • Entity: Private Sector

Simulyze, Inc

  • Point of Contact: Kevin Gallagher
  • Entity: Private Sector


  • Point of Contact: Mike Johnson
  • Entity: Private Sector

TURTLE MOUNTAIN Band of Chippewa Indians

  • Point of Contact: Jamie Azure
  • Entity: Tribal


  • Point of Contact: Christian Ramsey
  • Entity: Private Sector

University of North Dakota (UND)

  • Point of Contact: Grant McGimpsey
  • Entity: State

University of North Dakota (UND) - Rias

  • Point of Contact: Mark Askelson
  • Entity: State

Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.

  • Point of Contact: Kraettli Epperson
  • Entity: Private Sector

Xcel Energy

  • Point of Contact: Eileen Lockhart
  • Entity: Private Sector

Community Involvement


Federal Aviation Administration


North Dakota UAS Team to conduct first public mission at NDSU tailgating on Saturday, Sept. 29

September 24, 2018

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) and Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) along with project partners will be conducting its first public mission of North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integrated Pilot Program at the NDSU tailgating area in Fargo between the hours of 9 a.m. and approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 29. THE NORTH DAKOTA UAS TEAM OBTAINED WAIVERS FROM THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) TO CONDUCT THE UAS (DRONE) FLIGHTS AT THE FARGODOME PARKING LOTS OF E, F AND G. THE USE OF UAS ON THE FARGODOME GROUNDS ARE OTHERWISE NOT AUTHORIZED OR PERMITTED.

North Dakota’s UAS (drone) mission is with Media and Emergency Response crews in flight over people at the tailgating event in Fargodome’s west parking lot before the North Dakota State University football game. UASs will be flying over the tailgating area to gather data and serve as a real-world example to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) create new regulations that will enable the safe and secure integration of UASs into national airspace systems. The partners working on this mission with NDDOT and NPUASTS include: North Dakota State University, CNN, Botlink, Parazero, AirMap, Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Adams Communication & Engineering Technology (ACET) and others.

Governor Doug Burgum along with Senator John Hoeven, Representative Kevin Cramer and other officials will be present during the mission and making remarks at 11 a.m at the Fargo Air Museum. The UAS team will have an information booth in Thundar Alley at the tailgating event for more information on UAS use.

North Dakota’s IPP team and its partners are committed to safe and efficient operations of unmanned aircraft in North Dakota. For more information about North Dakota’s UAS Integration Pilot Program go to: www.dot.nd.gov/uas

North Dakota’s UAS Integration Pilot Program completes first test in Fargo

August 14, 2018

FARGO, N.D. – The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) and Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) announced today the successful completion of testing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in Fargo. Working in partnership with CNN, Botlink and ParaZero, the NDDOT and NPUASTS performed its first series of flight tests of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for potential flight over a group of people in controlled airspace.

This is the first phase of North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) which is designed to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) create new regulations that will enable the safe and secure integration of UAS (drones) into national airspace systems.

“NDDOT is excited to work with Northern Plains UAS Test Site and partner with CNN, Botlink and ParaZero to advance research and commercialization of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” says Russ Buchholz, UAS Integration Program Administrator at NDDOT. “We are testing the safety of UAS systems and looking at how they can operate in different types of situations.”

“The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program’s purpose is to help to enable advanced UAS operations, by working collaboratively with industry and government,” says Trevor Woods, Director of Safety at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “The collaboration between the NDDOT and the NPUASTS brings two, innovative organizations together that can best serve the State of North Dakota’s UAS interests, provide an environment for industry to achieve their goals, and support the FAA with UAS integration initiatives.”

“This collaborative program is a huge step forward for the industry allowing the utilization of UAS for media, law enforcement and inspection in urban environments. Botlink is excited to bring safety features and technology enabling the integration of UAS in the national airspace and the commercial use of UAS for operations over people. We are thrilled to be part of this collaboration with the North Dakota UAS team and CNN," says Terri Zimmerman, CEO of Botlink.

“As safety is a critical issue, ParaZero presented their drone safety system as one of the safety solutions to enable flight over people,” says Eden Attias, CEO of ParaZero.

In May, 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 and 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 www.dot.nd.gov/uas

About North Dakota Department of Transportation

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), established in 1917, is an innovative and progressive organization with the mission to safely move people and goods. NDDOT strives to build and maintain an efficient transportation system of more than 8,518 miles of roadway and 4,858 bridges. Innovation and integration of the UAS pilot program is key in expanding NDDOT’s future vision for traffic safety, autonomous technology and partnerships. For more information visit: https://www.dot.nd.gov.

About Northern Plains UAS Test Site

The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) is one of seven Federal Aviation Administration UAS test sites in the nation. The mission of the test site is to collaborate with FAA and industry partners to develop, systems, rules and procedures to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System without negatively impacting existing general or commercial aviation. For more information, visit: http://www.npuasts.com/.

About Botlink

Botlink was founded in Fargo, N.D. by military pilots and engineers with the intent to safely share the benefits of drones. Botlink is a cloud-based operations platform that links drones to industry in real time. The platform allows users to capture, process and deliver aerial imagery. Botlink also provides automated drone control and safety features allowing operators to remain safe and compliant with complex flight regulations. For more information visit: https://botlink.com/.

About ParaZero

ParaZero (https://parazero.com/) was founded in 2014 to accomplish a vision to enable the drone industry to realize its greatest potential. ParaZero offers a smart and intuitive solution to enable drone industry growth by designing, developing and providing best-in-class autonomous safety systems for commercial drones.

About CNN

Cable News Network (CNN) is a global news channel and a subsidiary of AT&T's WarnerMedia. CNN was founded in 1980 as a 24-hour cable news channel. Upon its launch, CNN was the first television channel to provide 24-hour news coverage, and was the first all-news television channel in the United States. For more information visit: https://www.cnn.com/.

UAS Testing in Fargo, ND

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Buchholz Named UAS Integration Pilot Program Administrator

Russ Buchholz

Russ Buchholz has been named UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Integration Program Administrator for the NDDOT. The NDDOT has been selected as one of 10 participants in the UAS Integration Pilot Program through the US DOT. Since NDDOT is the lead applicant, the program administrator will work with partners and stakeholders from across the state including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks and city, state and tribal agencies. At this time, Russ will continue to serve as the DOT’s ITD Division Director. Russ has been with the NDDOT for 10 years, previously serving 26 years in the National Guard, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.