The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) have partnered with Skydio and seven other industry leaders to execute the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) BEYOND program. Launched in October 2020, the purpose is “to further advance the safe integration of drones into our national space,” according to former Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

This means scaling beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations so that inspections, small package deliveries and public operations are economically viable. Collecting and analyzing data from local communities to address concerns along with assessing the societal benefits of drone usage is also a top priority for the FAA program. 

Improving the public’s perception of drones and enabling BVLOS flights in the National Airspace System without barriers to entry is the overall objective in North Dakota with BEYOND. “We are incredibly excited to announce our partnerships with such innovative companies from within North Dakota and across the country,” said NDDOT Director Bill Panos. “Partnerships like this keep us at the cutting edge of UAS advancements.”

The eight partners, and their offerings, are:

  • Airspace Link – an FAA-approved UAS Service Supplier of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), focused on meeting the needs of state and local governments and ensuring UAS pilots can make informed decisions.
  • Equinor – an energy company developing oil, gas, wind, and solar energy in more than 30 countries, including a strong presence in North Dakota.
  • iSight – the first private UAS company in North Dakota, they provide professional UAS operations, setting the bar on scalable and mature operations management.
  • Skydio – a manufacturer of small UAS that can see and understand the surrounding environment and an industry leader in autonomous flight technology.
  • SkySkopes – a professional drone service provider, based in North Dakota, that is focused on bringing innovative solutions to the energy sector.
  • Volansi – a commercial manufacturer and operator of autonomous flight systems who is focused on airworthiness and certification.
  • Workhorse – an autonomous solutions provider supporting airworthiness, certification, and operations support, primarily for package delivery.
  • Xcel Energy – leading organization using autonomous technologies in support of energy technologies and energy delivery.

NPUASTS and NDDOT are using North Dakota’s UAS Network, Vantis, to build out its statewide BVLOS network. A framework will be constructed for other states to replicate and implement on their end. 

“It’s incredibly advantageous that North Dakota is a powerhouse in UAS,” said Nicholas Flom, executive director of NPUASTS. “Having BEYOND and Vantis in the same location and having the expertise and reputation to draw in these leaders in commercial UAS operations, means that we are well-positioned to execute the goals of BEYOND.”

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