The North Dakota Department of Commerce announced today that the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site has been given an additional operational approval to expand testing capabilities for the UAS industry. The new testing, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), includes the use of the Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft for research flights in cooperation with North Dakota State University to be conducted from the Hillsboro Municipal Airport.

“This new aircraft will be used to support a precision agricultural research project between Elbit Systems of America and researchers at North Dakota State University,” said Robert Becklund, executive director of
the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site.

The Hermes 450, manufactured by Elbit Systems of America, LLC, is a larger aircraft that will be accompanied by a piloted chase plane following behind to ensure safety beyond the ground observers' line of sight. Research using the aircraft will be conducted in cooperation with the North Dakota State University Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department and the North Dakota Extension Service.


The Hermes 450

“Governor Dalrymple and I are excited to welcome Elbit Systems of America to North Dakota, and we eagerly anticipate the commencement of this groundbreaking testing,” Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley said. “We are confident that this partnership will bolster precision agriculture research and expand economic opportunities for our producers.”

“Elbit Systems of America is proud to be a part of this exciting new initiative which enables the use of a UAS for precision agriculture research and other commercial applications,” commented Raanan Horowitz, president and chief executive officer, Elbit Systems of America. “Elbit Systems is a global leader in UAS systems and applications. We are honored to cooperate with capable partners such as the Northern Plains Test
Site and North Dakota State University as we plan to develop innovative solutions for this emerging market."

North Dakota has invested more than $34 million to establish a national UAS test site, to establish the Grand Sky UAS Business Park and to advance North Dakota’s position as a hub for the nation’s growing UAS industry.           

North Dakota is a leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). On December 30, 2013, North Dakota was selected as one of six FAA test sites that will conduct crucial research that will assist the FAA in developing regulatory standards to foster integration of UAS into the national airspace. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site became the first site to begin flights in May 2014. As a FAA UAS Test Site location, North Dakota positions itself at the forefront of the burgeoning UAS industry.

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