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North Dakota Establishes First Ever UAS Super Corridor for BVLOS Flights


The path to commercially viable beyond visual line of sight flights was revealed this week along a 100-mile super corridor established in North Dakota. After months of research, regulatory work, stakeholder meetings and working group discussions, a group of unmanned aircraft systems industry leaders announced the results of their joint efforts.

Grand Sky Business and Aviation Park, along with Harris Corp. and help from the Northern Plains UAS Test Site team and several other UAV manufacturers, experts and payload providers, have created what they call the most technologically sophisticated UAS airspace for true and repeatable BVLOS operations (not just test flights) in several end-use categories.

The new super corridor utilizes an unprecedented and advanced network of radar, communications and sensors. Chase planes, currently required for BVLOS flights in the U.S., will not be required within the super corridor. The system combines data feeds from a network of advanced sensors and towers, including two long-range primary radars located at Grand Forks Air Force Base and at Hillsboro, N.D., located roughly 30-miles south of Grand Forks. The system provides detection of non-cooperative aircraft. Harris is providing ADS-B Xtend sensors as well.

“This is another first for Grand Sky and North Dakota in leading the UAS industry,” said George Kirov, vice president and general manager of commercial UAS solutions for Harris. “The size and complexity of the airspace opened to UAS BVLOS operations is unmatched.”

According to Kirov, the current corridor will open-up other sky highways across the state that can offer airspace for more BVLOS operations.

Thomas Swoyer, president of Grand Sky, said the new corridor will give customers and tenants of the nation’s first, largest and most active UAS aviation park “a truly unique UAS operational capability.”

Senator John Hoeven, R-N.D., brought in Jay Merkle, the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integration Office, for the announcement of the super corridor. Angela Stubblefield, FAA deputy associate administrator responsible for UAS security and counter-UAS policy was also in North Dakota.

The corridor uses a DASR-11 radar system that supports UAS operations up to 18,000 feet. The HubNet, developed by Harris and the University of North Dakota, uses a series of Harris sensors and radio relays to support smaller aircraft up to several thousand feet. The test site will use its BVLOS authorization.

Grand Sky currently houses large UAV flight and research operations for two major manufacturers and is also building-out its 217-acre site for other UAS entities.

The corridor will support operations in precision agriculture, infrastructure inspection, public safety and other areas. Unmanned Traffic Management work will also be done on the corridor.

The first-of-its-kind corridor adds to the list of first accomplished in the state known as the Silicon Valley of Drones. A medium altitude long endurance UAV made by Elbit Systems USA has flown in eastern North Dakota to demonstrate MALE UAV’s in action for farmers, agriculture research and infrastructure inspection using high-end sensors and BVLOS set-ups. General Atomics flew from Grand Forks to the U.K. earlier this year, marking the longest UAV flight on-record of its kind. Sky Skopes, a UAS service provider that has established a national network and service offering of pilots out of North Dakota, has used multirotor to string transmission lines, flown over people for official FAA research and been a part of several major UAS initiatives across the industry. Botlink has led a flights-over-people effort in conjunction with CNN, the FAA and others.

The state was selected as one of the 10 initial participants of the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program.

Source: UAS Magazine

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