North Dakota is leaving little to chance in its efforts to become the US leader in drone activity and infrastructure development, with legislators now considering a proposed $37 million spending boost for two of the state’s UAV projects, including its Vantis beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) network.
Lawmakers will be deciding whether to approve that $37 million in additional funding as part of Governor Doug Burgumsaid’s proposed budget for 2023 to 2025. His plan calls for $30 million to be directed to North Dakota’s Vantis BVLOS drone network – a groundbreaking system unique in the US in covering the entire state. The remainder will be used by the Grand Sky UAV business and aviation park in Grand Forks.
There’s a good chance legislators will approve the financial lift as a means of building on the momentum the BVLOS project has attained. In the relatively short time since North Dakota unveiled its plans for Vantis in 2020, virtually all ground-based sensor and radar infrastructure for navigation systems has been completed, and testing drone operation has continued to advanced stages.
Read: FAA grants uAvionix BVLOS approval for Vantis drone network
Earlier this month, meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted drone avionics tech specialist uAvionx authorization to operate BVLOS missions on behalf of Vantis – an important breakthrough Burgumsaid urged North Dakota to use as a springboard for even faster development.
As part of that, he has budgeted the additional funding on top of the $48 million already invested in the network.
“This (FAA) approval is a critical step that validates the state’s investment and years of work to
bring drones to commercial sectors in a safe and economic way,” Burgumsaid noted in his State of the State address this month. “Other states are reaching out to us as a leader in this technology. To build on this momentum, our budget proposes a $30 million investment in Vantis and $7 million for the Grand Sky UAS business and aviation park in Grand Forks… Our status as the nation’s proving ground for Unmanned Aircraft Systems continues to grow.”
Read: North Dakota announces Vantis, a statewide BVLOS network
The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International urged North Dakota legislators to pass the additional spending proposal on Vantis and Grand Sky as a means of consolidating the state’s position as a leader in drone development for the rest of the nation to follow.
“Through strong investment into this emerging technology, North Dakota is creating space for a new industry that will create new jobs and bring in outside commercial investment,” the organization said in a letter to state lawmakers. “North Dakota remains one of the fastest growing states, and by welcoming the UAS industry they are diversifying their economy away from their traditional top sectors to ensure long-term economic stability.”