FAA Selects North Dakota as One of Ten in Drone Integration Pilot Program

The statement that technology is making giant leaps forward every day is undeniable. In this fast-paced world, you must "stay ahead of the curve".

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) along with the U.S. DOT announced that North Dakota was one of ten selected to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The ten winners will be testing drone functions such as the ability to fly a UAS over people, operate a UAS at night along with the ability to fly UAS beyond the pilot's visual line of sight. This program will also be monitoring the integration of unmanned systems into the day-to-day airspace operations. 

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) and Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site (NPUASTS) are staying ahead of the curve as they announced the successful completion of the first series of UAS test flights for potential flight over a group of people in controlled airspace. Botlink and CNN exhibited their safety case during August 14, 2018 demonstration flight with the FAA. Botlink’s command and control drone software provides enabling technology to law enforcement in the IPP demonstration.


Drone landing after conducting test flight with CNN

Drone landing after conducting test flight with CNN

Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and flying over people are an integral part of the IPP because they are what is needed to deliver packages. That is a task that seven teams described as one of their main goals. BVLOS is needed for much more than just delivery services. Fields like search and rescue or emergency response would also greatly benefit from BVLOS. It would allow them to see what they are approaching and how serious the case may or may not be. 

Botlink's XRD (Extended Range and Data), LTE cellular device, provides beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities. Botlink has recently teamed with NASA to conduct tests of our XRD and cellular connectivity for reliable command and control links. 

The winners of the UAS IPP:

·       Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK

·       City of San Diego, CA

·       Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, VA

·       Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS

·       Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Meyers, FL

·       Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN

·       North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC

·       North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND

·       The City of Reno, NV

·       University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.


10 states IPP Map.jpg

There are endless applications for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Each winner has their own projected benefits and highlights.

Choctaw Nation of Durant, Oklahoma intend to focus on agricultural, public safety, and infrastructure inspections. Choctaw and partner, Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory, have 90 days to complete their night and beyond visual line of sight operations.

City of San Diego intends to focus on border protection and package delivery of food, with a secondary focus on international commerce, Smart City/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance. The awardee will conduct UAS operations and examine new technologies not in use today by leveraging its indoor testing facilities and various drone landing stations and ports.

The City of Herndon, Virginia is seeking to promote package delivery in rural and urban settings. The awardee plans to utilize their expertise they gained from partnering with the Virginia Tech UAS Test Site, NASA, and stakeholders with cyber security expertise. Data obtained through these diverse operations and varied operating environments will provide significant, scalable benefits to the UAS industry.

The DOT in Topeka, Kansas plans to deploy UAS to enforce their traffic management system which would allow for optimal agriculture operations.

Lee County Mosquito Control is focusing on low-altitude flights to control the mosquito population. The proposal includes night operations, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operations over people. They have the intention of using infrared as well as radar and satellite technology.

Memphis County is focusing on the inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations that support airport operations such as perimeter security surveillance and package delivery. Teaming with FedEx and Agricenter International, the awardee would support an integrated environment of urban, airport, private property and farmland that would yield an estimated $500 million annual benefit to the economy. Data collected would not only serve UAS but work with normal air traffic truly advancing integration.

North Carolina Department of Transportation is testing localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations. They seek to operate over human environments, at night and beyond the pilot's visual line of sight.

North Dakota Department of Transportation has a wide variety of operations that seek to expand UAS operations not only beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight and at night but to expand the operations all together. UAS will be operating in both urban and rural environments.

Reno, Nevada is focusing on the delivery of life-saving medical equipment in both the urban and rural areas. They will also integrate weather and radar data to expand the UAS capability.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks' primary focus is inspecting pipelines and surveying in remote areas. The climate and terrain in Alaska also allow them to collect data in other areas of study that we cannot get anywhere else.


The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) has a runtime of three years allowing the FAA to set new regulations if the original set is approved before the third year has concluded. AUVSI stated, “the UAS industry could create 100,000 more jobs and have an economic benefit of $82 billion in the next decade if we integrate UAS in the nation's airspace. *