North Dakota’s official, statewide drone system is growing after lawmakers recently approved a $20 million grant.
The network, known as Vantis, is the first of its kind in the U.S. The network uses multiple radar posts, surveillance sensors and command-and-control-radios to give drone pilots a “drone’s-eye” view of their surroundings, much like being in a cockpit. Once fully operational, Vantis will allow drone pilots to more easily follow FAA beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) regulations.
“We’re incredibly grateful to have leaders in this state – Governor Doug Burgum, Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford, our legislators – with the foresight to imagine and invest in the vision of Vantis,” said Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that Vantis is a groundbreaking initiative. It simply doesn’t exist at this level anywhere else in the U.S.”
Two years ago, NPUASTS, the administrating agency of Vantis, received $28 million two to launch the program. Earlier this year, Vantis found a home at its new Mission and Network Operations Center at the Grand Sky business and aviation park.
“This significant investment, supported by our administration and approved by the Legislature, sends a strong signal that we are committed to building on North Dakota’s status as the nation’s proving ground for UAS testing, training and commercialization,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. “By continuing to build out Vantis, we will lay the groundwork for the next wave of UAS innovators and entrepreneurs, diversify our economy and benefit all North Dakotans, including those in our critical agriculture and energy sectors.”
Last year, Collins Aerospace, L3Harris Technologies and Thales USA finalized a contract to work with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to “enable real-world, scalable, commercial and public UAS BVLOS operations in North Dakota: which is comprised of four key components:
- Remote infrastructure of surveillance sensors and command and control radios;
- Backhaul data network that is scalable and highly reliable;
- Mission and network operations center, with monitoring and system testing;
- UAS encompassing aircraft and ground control stations.”
“This continued investment ensures that Vantis can benefit the people and industries across North Dakota,” said Jim Cieplak, program manager for Vantis at NPUASTS. “We’ve established key sites on the western side of North Dakota, but this funding will allow us to begin the larger rollout of Vantis, so that North Dakotans can reap the greatest economic benefits of this technology.”
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