Vigilant Aerospace to manage drone flights over people in North Dakota

As a member of the North Dakota Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) team, Vigilant Aerospace Systems will provide airspace monitoring and situational awareness for the upcoming “flights-over-people” operations to occur on Saturday, Sept. 29th over one of the nation’s largest football tailgate parties, with the Federal Aviation Administration observing. The IPP flights will be carried out from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota, over the annual tailgate party preceding the North Dakota State University (NDSU) vs. South Dakota State University (SDSU) football game.

The flights are being coordinated by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), which leads the IPP Team and will be carried out by CNN and BotLink, piloted from the FargoDome canopy.

According to Vigilant Aerospace: “This is the most significant FAA-sanctioned flight-over-people operation to be conducted by an IPP team to date and is being carefully coordinated with the agency….Both CNN and BotLink will be operating small drones over the event to capture video footage and to demonstrate safe flights over people. Vigilant Aerospace staff will be using FlightHorizon GCS during the flights to monitor the airspace over the FargoDome, to log the flights and to provide real-time traffic alerts to the UAS pilots, when necessary. FlightHorizon GCS™ (Ground Control Station) is a complete solution to allow unmanned aircraft pilots to detect, track, predict and avoid other aircraft. The software uses algorithms and flight rules to achieve safety by sending self-separation and collision avoidance commands to the unmanned aircraft pilot to avoid conflicts quickly and efficiently.

“Flighthorizon GCS airspace management system will provide the traffic alerts if any aircraft fly into the operational area,” said Vigilant Aerospace Systems CEO, Kraettli Epperson, “we’re confident that our system will monitor the airspace and provide the airspace data to support the team’s initiatives in these flights.”

The IPP team will have a community outreach tent at the tailgate that will serve as a base station for the IPP team to actively monitor the flight operations and answer questions anyone might have about the flights, team objectives, and safety of the unmanned aircraft operations.

“This operation provides a dual opportunity for the team to safely flight test operations over people, gathering important data for progressing regulations and moving the UAS industry forward, and to actively be in contact and communicate with the community who will be able to witness these flight operations first-hand,” said Vigilant. “The overall goal of these flights is to provide safety case testing and data on operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over people not actively participating in the flight operations, which is one of the main focuses of the IPP. Currently flight operations over people is prohibited by regulation (Part 107.39) without a special waiver from the FAA. These flights will serve to record safety mitigation data for unmanned flights over people which will then provide a basis for new regulations to allow routine flights over people in urban, populated areas. Community outreach is important to the IPP as the team continues to work to provide safety case data to regulators to safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the national airspace.”

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