Thales to enable advanced drone operations in North Dakota

© Northern Plains UAS Test Site

Thales has successfully completed the preliminary design review for the key site implementation of Vantis, the statewide unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) network, for BVLOS operations in western North Dakota. Thales will deploy surveillance and communications infrastructure in the greater McKenzie County area as part of the beyond visual line of sight network. The sensors and communications network will support mission and network operations. 

The civil drone market is best represented by its huge commercial potential and the millions of new drones that are projected to enter our skies over the next 20 years – moving from a world with tens of thousands of flying objects to one with millions. The resulting complexity in the aviation ecosystem presents significant new challenges to security and safety. This will lead to more stringent registration and identification for UAS being required by civil authorities. Regulatory frameworks will influence how operators plan missions, receive flight approvals and identify and track drones securely. 

Thales will integrate new and existing infrastructure into a cloud-based traffic management software as a service (SaaS) platform supporting users at the Vantis mission and network operations cetner located at the Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Thales TopSky UAS Traffic Management (UTM) platform is a first of its kind, cloud platform blending field-proven air traffic control technologies with national, regional and local data to facilitate real-time situational awareness. Its robust capabilities also support proactive health and status monitoring to deliver the security, resilience, availability, affordability and flexibility required for tomorrow’s advanced aviation applications. This system will benefit users of both public and commercial use cases with the later representing those merchants who want drones to be able to conduct delivery, inspection, and other services. 

The company’s global experience as a large-scale systems integrator and its open aviation platform enable Thales to work with leading North Dakota companies and strategic partners, including Airspace Link, Appareo, Botlink, Terma, uAvionix and Verizon Skyward, to deliver the statewide network. 

Thales is actively engaged in the operational and technical challenges of UAS integration into the global airspace system. Thales is shaping the UAS industry’s future by leading projects with local, regional and national authorities such as the State of New York, the United States Air Force, FAA (USA), CAAS (Singapore) and DSNA (France) to address the unique challenges presented by new airspace users. 

“North Dakota’s Statewide UAS Network, known as Vantis, is truly the first of its kind,” said Alan Pellegrini, CEO of Thales USA. “This robust network, that safely and securely integrates UAS into the national airspace, will serve as an enviable model and the catalyst for broader commercial UAS operations for years to come as it relies on a complete solution addressing the FAA’s safety risk management process.” 

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