ND DOT gets waiver from FAA to routinely fly over people with drones

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Department of Transportation has received a four-year waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones over people. The DOT says its the first time the state has gotten a waiver to routinely fly an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) over individuals.

The DOT says it will fly a DJI Mavic 2 series equipped with a ParaZero SafeAir parachute recovery system. This means it will carry a parachute in case something fails with the device to protect surrounding traffic.

A pilot directing the drone will also have to wear a vest. DOT is working with Northern Plains UAS Test Site and program partners, ParaZero, to advance research focusing on safe operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

"Right now we're in a preparation phase, we're looking at buying three parachutes for the drone operations and then strategically place them throughout the state, maybe we need one in Fargo, maybe we need one out west as well," said Russ Buchholz, strategy and innovation director and UAS integration program administrator for the DOT.

The DOT says the UAS Integration Pilot Program technology will enhance the state with infrastructure inspections, traffic crash reconstruction and emergency response during a life-threatening event in rural areas.