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FAA Approves Use of Visual Observers for UAS Testing Flights in North Dakota
Post Date: Aug 31 2015

By ND Commerce
The Northern Plains (UAS) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site has been given an additional operational approval to expand the testing capabilities for the UAS industry. Northern Plains UAS Test Site is now approved for the use of visual observers from multiple ground locations, often referred to as “daisy-chaining” to ensure a safe, low-altitude environment, that simulates flights that are  beyond the visual line of sight. 
“As beyond line of site operations are not currently authorized at low altitudes, ‘daisy-chaining’ gives us the ability to use multiple visual observers to create an environment that tests various concepts beyond visual site,” says Nicholas Flom, Director of Safety at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “We applaud the FAA for providing us with this opportunity to assist users in simulating missions in a beyond visual line of site environment in an effort to move this industry forward.”
This approval replaces the need for a chase manned aircraft, providing a safer and more economical solution. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is working with NASA and their Unmanned Traffic Management initiative, as well as the FAA’s UAS Center of Excellence to explore low altitude detect-and-avoid solutions. Both of these initiatives require testing in a beyond visual line of sight environment. 
Companies working in fields such as precision agriculture and national infrastructure inspection will see a benefit in testing in this environment. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site also hopes to attract manufacturers who would like to demonstrate the capabilities of their platforms to the FAA in a simulated beyond visual line of sight environment.
The FAA recognizes the industry’s needs to safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) and the associated requirement to conduct the aeronautical research needed to do so ultimately enabling commercialization of their services. This Northern Plains UAS Test Site expansion of testing options demonstrates the FAA’s commitment to the UAS industry as well as the capabilities of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. 
The approval continues a growing number of advancements at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, which became the nation’s first test site to be FAA approved for operations on April 21, 2014.  
Gov. Jack Dalrymple established the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Authority in May 2013. The six-member authority, chaired by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, has worked ever since to develop the test site and advance the state’s UAS industry.  North Dakota has invested more than $30 million in state funding for the test site’s development, to establish the Grand Sky UAS Business Park and to further advance North Dakota’s position as a hub for the nation’s growing UAS industry.
For more information about the Northern Plains UAS Test Site or to inquire about gaining access to airspace, go to NPUASTS.COM or call us at 701-777-6100.  
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