GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Beyond visual line of sight flight operations have begun at the Grand Sky research and development park, marking an important milestone in the advancement of commercial unmanned aerial systems.
Grand Sky, located in North Dakota, was the first location in the United States to receive regulatory permissions to host commercial beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) test flights for large UAS systems.
The inaugural BVLOS flight, performed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., was commemorated yesterday during a ceremony that included representatives from the U.S. Air Force, Grand Forks County, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) and other industry partners.
"Flying large UAS beyond visual line of sight in the national airspace will allow the unmanned aircraft industry to demonstrate its true potential for contributing to commercial aviation operation," said Thomas Swoyer, Jr., president of the Grand Sky Development Co. "It reduces the cost for operators to test and prove systems and provides the opportunity for real-world demonstrations of how unmanned and manned aircraft can share the skies safely and efficiently."
BVLOS flights will initially be limited to a 30 nautical mile radius of Grand Sky, with flights subject to several additional Federal Aviation Administration restrictions while safety data is collected. The flights will be managed by Grand Sky, in partnership with NPUASTS.
"The milestone of removing a chase airplane from these operations is literally years in the making with multiple stakeholders from private industry, the FAA and Department of Defense coming together to find an achievable solution," said Nicholas Flom, NPUASTS executive director. "The persistence has paid off and I can't wait to have the UAS industry advance their programs in North Dakota with this approval."
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