"Unmanned Aircraft Systems"
Michael Huerta, Grand Fork, ND
April 21, 2014

University of North Dakota UAS Press Event

Good morning and thank you to Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven for inviting me to visit the Roughrider State. It’s great to be here with you and to share some exciting news.

Today, the FAA is granting the first authorization in the country to allow a test site to start flying unmanned aircraft. That test site is right here in North Dakota. It’s one of six sites nationally that will conduct research on the best way to integrate unmanned aircraft into our nation’s airspace.

This state has really taken a leadership role in supporting the growing unmanned aircraft industry, and we look forward to the contributions you will make.

The first topics of research will be in agriculture and ecology. The universities here will conduct flights of the unmanned Draganflyer to check soil quality and the status of crops. This unmanned aircraft is a small type of helicopter with cameras.  During the summer the Draganflyer will collect data to help develop an automated count of the state’s deer, elk and bison populations.

This research will happen west of here in Carrington, at the University of North Dakota’s Extension Center and at the Sullys Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake.

Unmanned aircraft are a revolutionary technology. We all see the potential of this technology, yet there are  operational goals as well as safety issues that we must consider when planning to expand the use of unmanned aircraft in our nation’s airspace.

We need to make sure that pilots are properly trained. We also need to make sure that unmanned aircraft sense and avoid other aircraft, and that they operate safely if they lose the link to their pilot.

The FAA, as the provider of air traffic services, must ensure the safety and efficiency of the entire airspace, including all aircraft, people and property – both manned and unmanned – in the air and on the ground.

This test site, and the others across the country, will provide invaluable information to help us develop policies and procedures to ensure safe, responsible and transparent integration.

There is a long history of dedication to aviation in North Dakota, with the founding of this aerospace school in the 1960s. The number of students in the university’s unmanned aircraft program has grown exponentially in the last five years. And you have a wide knowledge base here, and the ability to collaborate and share resources with the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The expanded work that will happen at this test site is crucial. We are working to establish goals to integrate both small and larger unmanned aircraft, and to foster America’s leadership in advancing this technology.

Thank you again for coming out today to learn about the great work that’s happening in North Dakota.

I’d now like to turn it over to the next speaker.