The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) is preparing to support statewide emergency response efforts following Gov. Doug Burgum’s emergency declaration for spring flooding.
The NPUASTS administers Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide unmanned aircraft system (UAS) beyond visual line of site network at the Grand Sky Business Park near Grand Forks. The NPUASTS will enhance recovery efforts through flood level monitoring, community awareness tools and a 24/7 Mission Network and Operations Center (MNOC). Specifically:
- For pre-mitigation, drones will be used to monitor flood levels, melt rate and ice jams.
- Images and video footage of drone flights will be made available for public viewing.
- A comprehensive flood risk report will soon be available at www.grandforks.gov, which will provide the community with up-to-date information about flood risk, enabling them to prepare more effectively for possible flooding.
- Drone flights will also be coordinated with emergency response personnel for quick access to real-time information.
- The MNOC will provide secure, 24/7 coverage and coordination with emergency response personnel.
“With Vantis, we’re supporting continuity in the state’s emergency response,” said Erin Roesler, Director of Operations and the Vantis Program Executive. “It’s important that we recognize the state has this incredible platform in Vantis that will play an enormous role in the coordination of regional and, someday, state emergency preparedness plans.”
The spring flood season isn’t the first time Vantis has been called upon as a resource for emergency responders. In April 2022, heavy snow and ice in western North Dakota damaged utility infrastructure, leaving citizens without power. Leveraging its investment in Vantis, the state mobilized drones to survey electrical infrastructure in rural areas, locate and assess the damage, and help prioritize resources for repairs and recovery. These services allowed the electric cooperative engineers to better assess damage and plan repairs, particularly in areas inaccessible due to high snowfalls or treacherous road conditions.
“As experienced flood fighters, North Dakotans are always looking for new and better solutions to the flooding challenges faced by our citizens and communities, and the state’s significant investment in UAS gives us an innovative tool to help protect people and property,” Burgum said. “Providing real-time perspective and data collection from the skies will help our flood-related efforts on the ground, and we’re grateful to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Vantis, Grand Sky and the MNOC for coordinating and deploying state-of-the-art resources.”
Vantis provides first-of-its-kind, turnkey support to commercial and public UAS operators through physical and digital infrastructure and regulatory approvals, making it easier and safer to fly drones for high-value use cases across a variety of industries. Grand Sky facilitates an ecosystem of both public and private UAS operators who are well-prepared for emergency response. Learn more at VantisUAS.com.
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is one of seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) UAS test sites in the nation. The mission of the NPUASTS is to collaborate with FAA and industry partners to develop systems, rules and procedures to safely integrate UAS into the National Airspace System without negatively impacting existing general or commercial aviation. Visit NPUASTS.com for more information.
Photo cutline: Vantis UAS operators inspect the North-End Pedestrian Bridge in Grand Forks, N.D., amidst receding floodwaters in spring 2019. (Photo courtesy of Vantis UAS)