North Dakota Plans Statewide Drone Air Traffic Control

Very soon, an unmanned aircraft will be able to launch from the Montana border of North Dakota and fly to the state line of Minnesota uninterrupted and hundreds of miles away from its pilot.

The North Dakota Legislature passed a bill this year infusing $33 million into UAS, $28 million of which is earmarked for a statewide network so that soon an aircraft can fly long distances without losing radio connection to its remote operator.

Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, said the system will use a combination of radar and radio transmissions to track aircraft and facilitate the piloting of UAS. As much as possible will be built on existing state infrastructure, such as the towers used for the North Dakota emergency services radio network, Flom said. The higher aircraft can fly, as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the less equipment is required to communicate with it.