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FAA’s BEYOND drone initiative welcomes new partners

The North Dakota Department of Transportation and Northern Plains UAS Test Site has partnered with industry leaders, including Skydio, Volansi, SkySkopes, iSight Drone Services, Airspace Link, Equinor, Workhorse, and Xcel Energy, to execute the FAA’s BEYOND program goals.

The FAA’s BEYOND program has hit a major achievement today after the North Dakota Department of Transportation and Northern Plains UAS Test Site brought on many industry players to ensure the program’s goals are met.

The FAA wants to tackle the remaining challenges with its BEYOND initiative, with the main one being beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations that can be repeated, scaled, and be economically viable, focusing on infrastructure inspection, public operations, and small package delivery.

NDDOT director Bill Panos shared:

We are incredibly excited to announce our partnerships with such innovative companies from within North Dakota and across the country. Partnerships like this keep us at the cutting edge of UAS advancements.

The program will also look at leveraging industry operations to improve analysis and quantify drone operations’ societal and economic benefits. Another big issue is the community’s perception of drones and will include data collection to see what can be done.

Rather than operating under waivers, BEYOND focuses on currently established rules and laws to collect accurate data to develop more accurate standards. The BEYOND program will collect and address community feedback, understand the societal and community benefits of drones, and streamline the approval process for drone integration.

Nicholas Flom, executive director of NPUASTS, added:

It’s incredibly advantageous that North Dakota is a powerhouse in UAS. Having BEYOND and Vantis in the same location, and having the expertise and reputation to draw these leaders in commercial UAS operations in, means that we are well-positioned to execute the goals of BEYOND.

This combination of forces is a big deal as the North Dakota Department of Transportation and Northern Plains UAS Test Site is the driving force behind the Vantis statewide BVLOS network currently being built in the state. The network aims to enable commercial drone flights across the state and provide a framework for the rest of the states to implement a similar network.

A full list of the partners and what they have to offer the program when required:

  • Airspace Link, an FAA-approved UAS Service Supplier of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), focused on meeting the needs of state and local governments and ensuring UAS pilots can make informed decisions;
  • Equinor, an energy company developing oil, gas, wind, and solar energy in more than 30 countries, including a strong presence in North Dakota;
  • iSight Drone Services, the first private UAS company in North Dakota, providing professional UAS operations, setting the bar on scalable and mature operations management;
  • Skydio, a leading US manufacturer of autonomous, small UAS that use artificial intelligence to see and understand their surroundings and intelligently navigate complex environments for industrial inspections and public safety;
  • SkySkopes, a professional drone service provider based in North Dakota that is focused on bringing innovative solutions to the energy sector;
  • Volansi, a commercial manufacturer and operator of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) autonomous flight systems that are focused on airworthiness and certification;
  • Workhorse, an autonomous solutions provider supporting airworthiness, certification, and operations support, primarily for package delivery;
  • Xcel Energy, a leading organization, using autonomous technologies in support of energy technologies and energy delivery.

Photo: Josh Spires, FAA, and Vantis



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Josh started in the drone community in 2012 with a drone news Twitter account. Over the years Josh has gained mass exposure from his aerial photography work and spends his days writing drone content for DroneDJ as well as pursuing his business.