GA-ASI to Conduct Unmanned Flights with Ground-Based Sense and Avoid

By Mike Ball / 28 Aug 2019
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MQ-9B UAS at Grand Forks

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that it has received a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAS (unmanned aerial systems) operations. The company will utilise a Ground-based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) system as an alternative to using a more costly and operationally restrictive manned chase aircraft.

The COA enables GA-ASI to conduct these unmanned flights with a Predator B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) within 60 nautical miles of the company’s Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC), which is located in the Grand Sky UAS Business Park in North Dakota.

The area is also home to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, where the FAA’s requirements for “see and avoid” operations for a significant volume of airspace were previously met, with a solution utilising Grand Forks Air Force Base Air Surveillance Radar (ASR)-11 and the L3Harris Technologies VueStation and RangeVue systems.

“Thanks to the support of Senator Hoeven and Grand Forks Air Force Base, GA-ASI will be able to use GBSAA as an alternate and preferred means of compliance,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “This COA will open the skies for more unmanned flights around our North Dakota facility and establish North Dakota as a UAS Training Site of Excellence for the Global Customers.”

“This is a big step that will help us to advance UAS operations and comes as the result of our work to both fund the DASR-11 radar and secure authorization from the FAA. Requiring a visual observer adds significant cost and complications to UAS operations and limits the ability of General Atomics, Grand Sky, the test site and others to develop this technology, which is why we’ve been working closely with the FAA to allow broader permission for BVLOS flights,” said Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota. “By relying on the DASR-11 radar we secured for the Grand Forks Air Force Base, as well as other sense and avoid technologies, General Atomics will be able to fly UAS without an observer or chase plane up to 60 miles from the air base. This is a significant expansion of the company’s unmanned operations in the state, another important step toward safely integrating this technology into our airspace and further proof that North Dakota is the location of choice for UAS research, development, testing and operations.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact