ND chosen for UAV pilot project

May 10, 2018

U. S. Department of Transportation General Counsel Steven Bradbury (foreground) in Bismarck for the announcement of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota has been chosen as one of the 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems pilot program.

North Dakota’s Department of Transportation will be the program manager. It will work with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, as well as local governments and businesses.

This pilot is designed to integrate drones with normal air traffic.

US Department of Transportation General Counsel Steven Bradbury was in Bismarck for the formal announcement. He told reporters a key to this program is to get people to understand what’s happening – and accept it.

"Seeing it in action, becoming comfortable with what's happening, understanding what they're being used for, who's operating them -- I think all of those things are important for community acceptance," Bradbury said. "Once we advance community acceptance you're going to see the dam break."

Bradbury said the technology is already here.

"The potential is going to be just beyond our imagination," Bradbury said.

It’s a three year pilot program.

North Dakota Transportation director Tom Sorel said it is a big deal for North Dakota.

"To be just one of tn out of 149 applicants is really huge," Sorel said. "It's a good deal for us."

Sorel said his agency will be looking for specific projects that involve beyond line of sight, flights over people, and nighttime operations.

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