FAA OKs Flights at North Dakota UAV Test Range

 - April 22, 2014, 2:40 PM

The FAA granted a certificate of authorization (COA) yesterday to the North Dakota Department of Commerce to fly the Draganflyer X4-ES quadcopter at the Northern Plains unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test range, the first of six national UAS test sites to begin operations. This two-year COA marks the first authorization from the FAA for a UAS test site.

The Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority will conduct initial flights over North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center near Carrington, N.D., starting the week of May 5, the FAA said. The objective is to demonstrate the helicopter’s utility for “precision agriculture” monitoring of soil quality and crop status. The authority will also conduct a second set of missions this summer over Sullys Hill National Game Preserve on the south shore of Devils Lake, the state’s largest natural lake.

In December, the FAA announced that it had selected universities and other public entities in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia to operate six national UAS test sites, something Congress required in both the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act and National Defense Authorization Act. Entities in several other states will participate in the UAS testing through partnerships.