In partnership with North Dakota's Vantis network, drone operators will test a number of use cases for beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights, ranging from search and rescue missions to small package delivery.
North Dakota will work with six companies to test beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights on its statewide unmanned aircraft systems network this summer.
Vantis, launched with a $28 million state investment, enables UAS companies to conduct BVLOS testing of their aircraft and software. It offers remote infrastructure, such as surveillance sensors and command and control radios, a backhaul data network, a mission and network operation center, as well as a UAS ground control station and aircraft.
Following a request for proposal process for UAS use cases to test BVLOS flights along the statewide network, Vantis selected six organizations whose applications would be tested at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site.
Among the winners are ISight Drone Services, which helped state utilities assess storm damage and other recovery efforts after historic blizzard conditions in April 2022. It will oversee gravel road inspections and other infrastructure inspection use cases.
The University of North Dakota’s non-profit Aerospace Foundation, whose UAS Responders provide aerial surveillance of wildfires, controlled burns, public protests and search and rescue events, was also selected. The organization will focus its test missions on search and rescue and emergency service applications.
American Aerospace Technologies will do medium-altitude, long endurance UAS missions focusing on pipeline and other linear infrastructure applications. Workhorse, a company that specializes in fully autonomous UAS delivery, will test small package delivery, while Asylon will test perimeter security use cases such as monitoring fence and property lines and automated alarm response. Phoenix Air Unmanned will use long-endurance, heavy-lift aircrafts to conduct electric utility line inspections.
The various use cases by diverse aircraft will give Vantis additional testing data to ensure the network meets the highest safety standards. Operators, meanwhile, can use the flight data collected by the Vantis network to help bolster their cases for certification by the FAA.
“We have selected some of the most innovative and advanced UAS operators and manufacturers out there,” Vantis Program Manager Jim Cieplak said. “We look forward to this next stage, with multiple aircraft flying multiple use cases on Vantis simultaneously.”