Connecting with UAS and State Agencies at AUVSI
June 7, 2023

Connecting with UAS and State Agencies at AUVSI

AUVSI XPONENTIAL is often one of the most informative showcases of all things UAS and autonomy. The recently concluded XPO 2023 was no exception as our Northern Plains UAS Test Site team was able to connect with the people and organizations who are leading autonomous, uncrewed and robotic technology.

Throughout the show in Denver, we were able to meet with companies and groups who are moving the industry forward and share the progress we’ve made in growing UAS operations. A particular focus at this year’s event was to be able to share our story in how Vantis is working to serve North Dakota and the impact we’re having in multiple roles.

Our leaders led breakout panels at the conference, sharing success stories and demonstrating how the Test Site and Vantis fit into the larger picture of state services and public-private innovation.

Measuring the Value of Safety

In the first session, Director of Operations Erin Roesler spoke to the audience about the crucial role that UAS has in statewide governmental response and told of the part that NPUASTS is playing in public safety.

Roesler showed the AUVSI audience how Vantis assisted North Dakota emergency response efforts in April 2022, after Gov. Doug Burgum issued a statewide disaster declaration following severe winter storms. More than 40 counties were affected by record snowfalls in excess of 30 inches, 60 mph winds, river flood levels over 45 feet and widespread power outages.

The governor’s office leveraged the power of Vantis in responding to the damage, specifically in helping to assess and prioritize the recovery efforts in restoring power in the affected areas. It was the first time UAS had been utilized in such a large manner during an emergency response plan.

In the presentation, Roesler outlined how a phone call from the governor’s office to the NPUASTS led to a swift organized deployment of UAS crews, obtainment of a statewide FAA 107 waiver, and distribution of UAS data vital for restoring utility services to North Dakota residents. The use of UAS to survey difficult-to-access areas helped shorten the anticipated time period for life-saving power restoration from over two weeks.

From Testing to Operationalizing

Roesler and NPUASTS Executive Director Trevor Woods joined a second AUVSI panel to show how the Test Site assists other state agencies to add UAS services to their work.

As one of the seven FAA-designated test sites nationally, NPUASTS has a mission to provide verification of the safety of UAS operations and to help integrate drones into the National Airspace.

In its 10 years, NPUASTS has continued to clarify that objective as technologies, concepts and operations advance, with a further role of operationalizing autonomy. Roesler and Woods showed how the Test Site assists other North Dakota state agencies in adding UAS services and operations to their work.

The NPUASTS has facilitated educational campaigns, hosted training courses and provided demonstrations for various state agencies, including the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, which both had representatives on the panel, as well.

Because of this decade’s worth of experience, the Test Site has become a valuable consultant to assisting state agencies and helped identify the key elements in operationalizing autonomy and ensuring adoption success.

Connecting in the Future

The weeklong event showed the power of UAS and autonomous systems and how the industry’s landscape is so quickly evolving. We look forward to next year’s show in San Diego and to two future events where the team will be this year.

Join us at the Utah Aeronautics Conference from June 20 through 22 in Layton, Utah; Commercial UAV Expo from Sept. 5 through 7 in Las Vegas; and at UAS Summit and Expo on Oct. 10 and 11 in Grand Forks.