North Dakota’s statewide Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) network known as Vantis has received USD20 million investment boost from North Dakota Legislature. The funding is part of a USD30 million grant to support Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) activities accross the state.
The funding will support expansion of the Vantis network to Cass, Grand Forks and Traill counties in the eastern part of the state.
According to a report by The Forum newspaper, in addition to the USD20 million pledged to Vantis, USD7 million was allocated to continue development of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, while Grand Sky on the Grand Forks Air Force Base received USD3 million. The lion’s share of the new funding will be aimed at deploying Vantis in eastern North Dakota for agricultural uses.
Vantis Executive Director Nick Flom said commercial usage of Vantis in McKenzie County and Williams County is expected to begin later this summer, pending final approvals from the FAA. “We’ve gone from a state that’s known for farming, agriculture and oil to a state that’s known for enabling and opening the door for commercial UAS operations,” he said.
Once approvals are in place, Vantis will be able to open their beyond visual line of sight network to multiple users.
With the new funding coming available July 1, Flom said work will move quickly to ensure drones reach their full potential in eastern North Dakota, said the newspaper report.
A large component of that will be augmenting existing infrastructure, Flom noted. “Some of it is super simple,” he said. “We’re trying to leverage existing infrastructure as much as possible.” A portion of that includes installing devices on existing state-owned radio towers. New construction is expected to entail radar platforms and pedestals. Overall though, Vantis’s network won’t require large-scale construction, Flom explained. “We’re not building structures or buildings, we’re just deploying systems out in the field,” he said.
NPUASTS, which administers Vantis, received USD28 million two years ago to create and develop a statewide BVLOS network. Since then, NPUASTS has worked with leaders in the manned aviation industry to develop Vantis’ technology and to build out key sites in McKenzie and Williams counties. NPUASTS is currently conducting testing and validation to ensure that all flights on Vantis meet the highest safety standards. This additional USD20 million, along with carryover from the initial investment, will be used to expand this technology to other areas in the state.
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