North Dakota Selects 3 System Integrators for Statewide BVLOS Network

Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies Company, L3Harris Technologies, and Thales USA have been selected to work with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to build, implement and operate North Dakota’s statewide network for flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

The companies will provide systems engineering and integration services for this “first-of-its-kind, aviation-grade” network, according to a news release. The state invested $28 million in funding to support the creation of this network that will enable BVLOS drone flights across the state. The network will benefit various industries, including agriculture, utilities and public safety.

“With this partnership in place, North Dakota is well-positioned to create and implement what is really the next level in the UAS industry,” said Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), which administers the statewide UAS BVLOS network, according to the release. “Nobody else is doing what North Dakota is doing.”

The first step is to create a BVLOS system development and implementation plan. The system integrators will work to drive approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They also will support standards, policies, and procedures for safe and efficient integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).

Initial deployment will begin in western North Dakota.

“We have multiple public and commercial use cases on the western side of the state, representing a variety of industries,” said Jim Cieplak, program manager for the statewide network at NPUASTS, according to the release. “This will enable the network to provide real-world benefits as we continue to build it out and expand its reach.”