Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Committee, this week met with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson to secure support for the continued advancement of North Dakota’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) leadership and investment in the state’s airports.
Among other things, the senator urged Dickson to ensure the FAA cooperates on beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) unmanned flights in North Dakota, including in the Red River Valley’s UAS Super Corridor and using the statewide sensor network that is currently being developed. This builds on Hoeven’s efforts to secure waivers for the state’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP), Xcel Energy and General Atomics to conduct a broader range of BVLOS activities. Hoeven also invited Dickson to North Dakota to see firsthand the state’s efforts to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace.
“The FAA is an important partner in our efforts to support North Dakota’s aviation industry, both manned and unmanned,” said Hoeven. “I had a good meeting with Administrator Dickson about our efforts in North Dakota to serve as the nation’s proving ground for UAS. Our state is writing the rules of the road for unmanned aircraft, and we look forward to showing him these efforts in person. Additionally, we discussed the importance of continued investment by the FAA in our state’s airports. These are both priorities that will help ensure a robust and growing economy for our state.”
Through his role on the THUD Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is working to advance the integration of UAS into the national airspace, support the development of North Dakota’s aviation infrastructure and address the nation’s pilot shortage. To this end, the senator helped secure the following priorities in the Fiscal Year 2020 funding legislation that was recently passed by the U.S. Senate:
Advancing UAS Integration
- $6 million in matching funds for companies that work with UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, to demonstrate or validate technologies essential to integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.
- $12 million for the UAS Center of Excellence, which is co-led by the University of North Dakota.
Aviation Infrastructure & Air Service
- Full funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports ongoing critical capital improvements at airports in North Dakota. This includes:
- $450 million for supplemental discretionary AIP grants, which fund projects at small, non-hub airports.
- Hoeven-sponsored language directing the FAA to consider the full range of flight activities, like pilot training at Grand Forks International Airport, when awarding AIP discretionary grants.
- Hoeven’s language to fast-track funding for airport relocations where existing locations do not allow for expansion, like the new Williston Basin International Airport. The senator’s efforts have helped secure a total of $107.8 million for the project to date.
- Maintaining the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure air carriers continue to serve smaller communities, like Devils Lake, Dickinson and Jamestown.
- $10 million for the Small Community Air Service Development Program to help small airports expand new air service and new destinations for flights from airports in North Dakota.
Pilot Training for Veterans
$5 million for a pilot program to provide opportunities for veterans interested in pilot training programs, similar to the American Aviator Act, bipartisan legislation Hoeven introduced with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)