December 23, 2016

USAF Chief of Staff visits Grand Sky, discusses BVLOS approval

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein toured Grand Sky on Dec. 22, 2016, as part of a visit to Grand Forks Air Force Base. He also attended a roundtable at the park to discuss UAS advancements and North Dakota’s role as a leader in the industry.

The roundtable was led by Sen. John Hoeven and attended by state and local officials, military leaders, executives of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, and industry members. The meeting was held in Northrop Grumman’s newly built research and development facility at Grand Sky.

ND Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford speaks during a UAS roundtable held at Grand Sky on Dec. 22, 2016. The roundtable was led by Sen. John Hoeven, second from right, in honor of a visit by U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, right.

“It was a privilege to host Gen Goldfein and share in the discussion of UAS and how it will increasingly be used by military and private sectors,” said Tom Swoyer, president of Grand Sky Development Co. “Because of continued support from our local, state and federal officials, Grand Sky is poised to maintain its leadership role in the UAS industry and keep North Dakota on the map as a hub of UAS activity.”

During the roundtable, Sen. John Hoeven announced that he expects the FAA to provide a certificate of authorization (COA) for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights by the end of 2016. The approval will make the test site the first location in the U.S. to have that capability. Grand Sky tenants will have the ability to use the COA to conduct beyond line of sight flights, making it the first UAS park in the nation to offer this critical component of UAS operations to commercial operators.

“We’ll be able to do research, testing, training and deployment withoutchase aircraft statewide across North Dakota,” Sen. Hoeven said in a news release. “That can’t be done anyplace else in the country and will give us a competitive edge.”

In his comments, Gen. Goldfein commended the unique level of partnership between military, state and local entities that made Grand Sky possible and continues to impact the entire UAS industry. “I have heard about the community partnership here at this base my entire career, and it’s legendary,” he said.

Nick Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, told roundtable attendees that the test site has been working with the FAA for more than a year to gain BVLOS approval, and that the final approval will benefit current tenants Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., as well as future tenants. “This is an opportunity for them to conduct flights within a 60-mile radius of Grand Forks Air Force Base and the Grand Sky business park. They can’t do this anywhere else.”

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