Protecting North Dakota skies for safe unmanned aircraft system operations

Terma and Thales USA have reached a formal agreement for Terma to supply multiple SCANTER 5202 radar systems supporting Thales as the systems integrator for Vantis, a “Beyond Visual Line of Sight” (BVLOS) system being implemented by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) and Thales in the US State of North Dakota.

Terma anticipates that a substantial number of radar sites will be required to meet the needs of Vantis going forward on this highly visible and ground-breaking program. The 8-year frame agreement is for the supply and technical assistance to Thales as a radar sensor provider of choice for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) applications. This agreement covers the supply of several different Terma SCANTER radar configurations that best meet the detection requirements for each radar site.

Over the next 20 years, more drones are expected to join existing air traffic, offering commercial benefits but posing significant challenges to safety and security as the number of flying objects jumps from tens of thousands to millions. This will require coordination and collaboration between all actors for registration, mission planning, flight approvals, and identification and tracking.

The Vantis system is integrating surveillance, communications, and cloud-hosted services for a “first of its kind safety-oriented, system-of-systems solution.” Key site implementation will validate infrastructure requirements and procedural needs to ensure routine, safe, and secure Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) airspace integration. The sensors and communications network will support mission and network operations, integrating new and existing infrastructure into a cloud-based traffic management software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. Blending current air traffic control technologies with national, regional, and local data to facilitate real-time situational awareness at the Vantis Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) at the Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, N.D., utilizing the Thales TopSky – UAS Airspace Manager platform.

Terma’s primary role is the detection of manned aircraft to ensure that Unmanned Aircraft System (drones) remote pilots can remain well clear. The radar coverage volume will allow safe UAS operation from very long distances where UAS can be used for everything from road inspections, medicine delivery, wind turbine inspections and many other applications.

“Terma has received extremely positive feedback from both Thales as well as from NPUASTS, which operates the Vantis program. The positivity from our first two sites assisted in Thales agreeing to a long-term agreement with Terma. This agreement over time will likely expand beyond Vantis as Thales works with other programs as the appointed system integrator,” says Mark Mahoney, Business Development Director for Terma.

“Terma has been a great partner to Thales as part of Vantis,” said Frank Matus, Director of ATC and Digital Aviation Segment for the Americas at Thales. “The excellent performance of Terma’s radar sensors make them an essential part of the Vantis system towards enabling beyond visual line-of-sight operations across North Dakota.”

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