August 19, 2011      

In an effort to expand the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in North Dakota, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) today urged J. Randolph Babbitt, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, to move forward quickly with a plan to integrate UAS into the national airspace.

“I strongly believe in a vision that allows for UAS to transit from Grand Forks Air Force Base, operate in a restricted airspace environment, and return home. Such an approach would meet the short-term military requirement for operations beginning next summer, and open the door for a pilot project to test additional steps toward full integration, as authorized by the Senate-passed FAA Reauthorization Act,” the senator said in a letter to Babbitt.

Conrad noted the critical importance of UAS integration to North Dakota. Grand Forks Air Force Base has been designated as a center of emerging UAS missions, and the community and the University of North Dakota now stand at the vanguard of unmanned aviation.

Ongoing Red River Working Group meetings between the North Dakota congressional delegation, the FAA, and the Air Force have made progress in recent months toward finding a solution for operating UAS in North Dakota. The FAA Reauthorization Act passed by the Senate included a provision drafted by Senator Conrad and retired Senator Byron Dorgan that establishes four UAS test sites and training centers across the nation.  

Conrad was the cosponsor of the 2011 Red River Valley Research Corridor Unmanned Aircraft Systems Action Summit and is working with the Red River Working Group to facilitate discussions between the FAA, the Air Force, Customs and Border Patrol, and NASA, in an effort to broaden UAS training and operations out of Grand Forks Air Force Base. Click here to see the letter.

SOURCE: Sen. Conrad’s press office

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