How Have UAS Test Sites Advanced the Drone Industry?

Both pilots and companies are navigating a thin line between security and innovation. Host Grant Guillot talks with leaders, influencers, and experts across the drone industry to guide us through the complex web of technology and policy in the United States.


The rigors of the drone industry require research, development, testing, certifications, and more. Drones in America looks at the purpose and usage of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) test sites, as host Grant Guillot spoke with Nicholas Flom, Executive Director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. Flom is an industry veteran and manned pilot who is a voting member of Committee F38 on UAS.

“With the regulations, the thought was, do we need test sites? But we’re never content and want more to fly higher, faster, and longer. Test site programs afford those opportunities” – Nicholas Flom

When Flom first joined the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the idea of commercialization of drones wasn’t prevalent. “There was no direct path to commercialization. This was before Part 107, so we were working with some research universities on use cases,” he said.

As more regulations from the FAA became law, the push to commercialization was more urgent. “With the regulations, the thought was, do we need test sites? But we’re never content and want more to fly higher, faster, and longer. Test site programs afford those opportunities,” Flom added.

That led the test site to involvement in the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The program, launched in 2017, tested various applications and missions relating to package delivery, inspections, emergency responses, and other uses.

Flom described his organization’s involvement as having both the R&D component and then tying it into IPP for a direct path to commercialization. “The IPP established routine processes that the entire industry can take advantage of.”

In 2020, IPP ended, and a new program, BEYOND, took its place. Northern Plains UAS Test Site will also participate in BEYOND, which plans to address the remaining challenges of UAS integration.

Flom said, “Our program aligns well with the FAA, and our focus will be infrastructure. In the end, we’ll be able to package up all the work for the industry.”

Stay tuned to MarketScale’s release of the exclusive Drones in America episode highlighting Zing’s successful delivery of Cafe Du Monde’s beignets across the Mississippi River March 24th!

See Previous Episodes of Drones In America Here

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