North Dakota calls itself “the Silicon Valley of drone innovation.” And this summer, the state will be able to do full justice to that tag when six companies simultaneously fly their drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) for applications ranging from security surveillance to utility inspections.
The idea is to test the robustness and safety standards of the statewide Vantis BVLOS drone network – a first of its kind in the nation. Vantis is administered through the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), one of the seven FAA test sites that are conducting research for integrating drones into the national airspace.
Jim Cieplak, Vantis program manager, said:
We have selected some of the most innovative and advanced drone operators and manufacturers out there. We look forward to this next stage, with multiple aircraft flying multiple use cases on Vantis simultaneously.
Here are the six companies which will be testing out real-life use cases on the Vantis network this summer:
- American Aerospace Technologies will be focusing on pipeline and other linear infrastructure inspections. It has been flying medium-altitude long-endurance BVLOS missions since 2010 and assists customers with obtaining airspace approvals for drone operations across the US.
- Asylon (pictured above) will be looking at perimeter security use cases, such as automated alarm response and monitoring fence and property lines.
- ISight Drone Services will be looking at gravel road inspections as well as other infrastructure inspection use cases. The North Dakota-based company uses drones to collect data for energy and utilities, precision agriculture, and construction and engineering clients. In April, it assisted state utilities in inspecting storm damage, helping prioritize repair and recovery efforts.
- Phoenix Air Unmanned will be conducting electric utility line inspections with long-endurance, heavy-lift aircraft. The company has performed 12,000 miles of BVLOS linear infrastructure inspection flights throughout the Midwest since 2019.
- UND Aerospace Foundation will be focusing on search and rescue as well as other emergency services applications. The nonprofit organization develops business ventures within private industry and government. One example of this is UAS Responders, who conduct aerial surveillance of wildfires, controlled burns, and search and rescue events.
- Workhorse will be testing out small package delivery. The company specializes in fully autonomous delivery drones which work in tandem with Workhorse’s all-electric delivery vans.
Trevor Woods, executive director of NPUASTS, pointed out that, in addition to ensuring Vantis can serve diverse industries in North Dakota and beyond, the data collected through the test flights will help to bolster the case operators need to make to the FAA to obtain type-certification for their drones.