At Grand Sky, a commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS, or drone) focused research and development park in North Dakota, large UAS have started flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). These test flights stem from cooperative efforts of Grand Sky, the U.S. Air Force, Grand Forks County, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and others that helped to obtain approval of BVLOS operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Thomas Swoyer, Jr., President of Grand Sky Development Co., said, “Flying large UAS [BVLOS] in the national airspace will allow the unmanned aircraft industry to demonstrate its true potential for contributing to commercial aviation operations. 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.”

These BVLOS operations at Grand Sky are monitored through a system of surveillance: one-way access to Grand Forks Air Force Base’s radar feed is linked to locally installed ADS-B Xtend and FAA NextGen systems through Harris Corp.’s RangeVue system to provide operators with real-time situational awareness of both manned and unmanned aircraft. The surveillance system is currently capable of supporting operations for UAS flying within 60 miles of the radar.

This is the first site in the U.S. to receive approval for commercial BVLOS test flights for large UAS.