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February 17, 2015
Heitkamp: New Federal Guidelines Provide Much-Needed Step in UAS Technology Development

WASHINGTON, D.C, Feb.17, 2015 – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today released the following statement on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced rule proposals for unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Heitkamp has been pushing the FAA for guidance to help further develop UAS technologies since she brought FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to North Dakota in April 2014, where he announced the Grand Forks-headquartered Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, as the first-running UAS Test Site in the nation.

In addition to the FAA’s proposal, the White House released its privacy objectives for the UAS technologies testing and use. In November, Heitkamp specifically called on the FAA to issue safety and privacy guidelines so that UAS Test Sites can work to develop its technology for both commercial and safety purposes.

“Grand Forks is on the cusp of developing technologies that have the potential to innovate America,” said Heitkamp. “Already growing thousands of jobs, businesses, and communities across the country, UAS technologies are jumpstarting our country – and it’s starting in North Dakota. That’s why I’ve been pressing our federal partners to provide the guidance to our workers in the UAS industry to make sure the nation’s first-operating test site has the guidance it needs to research and develop the technology safely, while accounting for necessary privacy concerns. Today’s announcement strikes a much-needed balance between privacy and safety concerns, while providing room to develop innovative technology that can help embolden North Dakota farmers with agricultural production and spur more growth in our state’s energy sector, as well as encourage key safety techniques like spotting energy pipeline leaks and ruptures. I’ll keep working with our partners in the FAA to closely watch the development of these rules and their impact on the growth of our UAS technology industry so we can keep Grand Forks on the cutting edge.”

Earlier this month, Heitkamp introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage safe commercial use of UAS technologies, which would in part give greater flexibility to research and develop UAS technologies, and require the FAA to provide the industry with necessary guidelines.

In numerous meetings with top Administration officials, including FAA Administrator Huerta, Heitkamp strongly advocated for the selection of Grand Forks as a UAS Test Site. Heitkamp brought Huerta to North Dakota in April, where he announced that the Grand Forks-headquartered Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority as the nation’s first officially running UAS site – the site had been selected to be one of six UAS Test Sites nationwide in December 2013. As a co-founder of the Defense Communities Caucus, Heitkamp has also helped develop an Enhanced Use Lease between the Air Force and Grand Forks County, to further grow the UAS industry in the area.

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