Thales, a global leader in air traffic management, and the North Dakota Department of Commerce have entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to further expand the Nation’s First Statewide Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Network.
"The partnership between Thales and North Dakota in the BVLOS development is a significant step towards advancing autonomous technologies,” Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen said. "This collaboration will further enhance the safe, secure, and efficient integration of UAS into the U.S. and national airspace. Perhaps most importantly, this agreement allows the state of North Dakota and Thales to work collaboratively to monetize the investments made by both parties over the several years leading up to this monumental agreement.”
A major barrier to commercial UAS, or drone, flights – package deliveries, infrastructure inspections, search and rescue efforts – is that UAS currently must remain within visual line of sight of the pilot. By using radar, radios, and other communications equipment on towers distributed throughout the state, Vantis can provide command, control, and situational awareness to UAS pilots. With Vantis, UAS pilots can see and avoid obstacles as well as fly safely at a distance – which will result in commercial UAS flights that are economically feasible and scalable.
In addition to expanding Vantis, the agreement formalizes the strategic relationship between Thales, North Dakota and the Northern Plains Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Test Site (NPUASTS) where they will work together on technology solutions to grow the autonomous systems sector across the state and beyond.
Efforts have demonstrated notable advances in applying automation and UAS technologies to advance medical supply and device delivery by drone to operations that support precision agriculture. North Dakota has positioned itself as a leader in autonomous systems integration especially in the aviation sector. With $48M invested over the past two biennium in Vantis, the state and Thales are demonstrating the effectiveness of deploying sensor technology and integrated systems making this a key differentiator for the region.
“The advancement of UAS integration supporting operations across industries revolutionizes the way we live and work,” Vice President, Airspace Mobility Solutions, Americas, Todd Donovan said. “Our partnership between activities that are inherently governmental and a commercial approach is a powerful means to quickly advance UAS integration.”
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is an official Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-designed UAS test site. Established in 2014, NPUASTS works with FAA in developing and enabling UAS operations in a safe and efficient manner.