North Dakota DOT chosen to participate in drone program

BISMARCK, N.D. - Ten programs across the country have been selected to help develop the future of drones, and North Dakota is one of them.

For the next three years, led by the state's Department of Transportation, agencies will be working to come up with policy for how drones can operate in the airspace. It's called the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, sponsored by the U.S. DOT. It will focus on safely flying drones over people, at night and beyond the line of sight.

In North Dakota, public, private and tribal agencies, as well as the Northern Plains UAS Test Site will all help with the work, which officials say will bring new business, jobs and technology to the state. It's also expected to help in agriculture, commerce and infrastructure industries.

"We will work with law enforcement and emergency services to speed up response times during emergencies such as flooding blizzards and finding missing persons,” Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford said.

In response to the announcement Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., stated:

“This pilot program gives our state the opportunity to further strengthen its leadership in UAS and share our expertise with partners across the country. Integrating UAS into the NAS will mean tremendous growth in this technology, bringing investment and good jobs, while also supporting our national security. And it’s happening right here in North Dakota. That’s big news for the test site, the companies at Grand Sky Technology Park, our universities and the UAS industry across our state.”

Sen Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., stated:

“For years, North Dakota has been a proven leader in UAS research, innovation, and job growth, and today’s announcement from the Department of Transportation recognizes our state’s exceptional ability to produce cutting-edge, globally recognized UAS research and development. As drones become further integrated into our airspace, there is vast potential for unmanned systems and the economic impact they can create—but we need to make sure it happens in a safe and sustainable manner. We have seen how safe and efficient UAS could help farmers grow crops, enable the state to monitor energy infrastructure, and be deployed to protect the Northern Border. Now our state is getting additional resources to the expanding UAS sector – and that’s great news. Through productive relationships with both the public and private sectors, we are continuing to advance North Dakota as the epicenter of UAS infrastructure, talent, and ideas.”

Lastly, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., stated:

“Innovation has always been America’s global advantage. Like many others in North Dakota, I extend my gratitude to President Trump and Secretary Chao for advancing North Dakota’s application and giving us this incredible opportunity. North Dakota, Nevada, and others in the public and private sector are delivering real ideas to put America at the front of innovation. Thank you for recognizing us today and congratulations to the North Dakota Department of Transportation and all the state partners who will be part of this pilot program.”