Who is Building North Dakota’s BVLOS Network? Vantis and Thales Announce Partnership

North Dakota's BVLOS networkVantis and Thales Partner to Build North Dakota’s BVLOS Network, the Nation’s First.

Vantis is North Dakota’s Statewide Unmanned Aircraft Systems Network.  Since launching, Vantis has received major buzz – and major investment.  Vantis is a first for the U.S.: and they’ve now announced that global tech company Thales has one the contract to build out drone infrastructure across the state. “Thales, a global technology leader, was one of three aviation giants providing engineering and integration services being evaluated to enable BVLOS UAS flights on Vantis,” says a press release. Thales will act as “long-term systems integrator for Vantis design, operations and maintenance.”

“We’re excited for the next phase of our partnership with Thales,” said James Cieplak, program manager of Vantis. “They were chosen not only because of their outstanding technical performance and innovative approach to building this system, but because they provide the best long-term value to the state. Thales shares our vision for what a partnership of this magnitude could achieve, and for Vantis as the future of the UAS industry.”

North Dakota’s BVLOS network is the latest in the state’s investments into the drone industry.  With agriculture, gas pipelines, wind farms, and one of the FAA’s UAS Test Sites, the state is a prime testing ground for new drone technologies.  Providing a long range infrastructure for exploring sight beyond visual line of sight technologies can provide a boost to advanced commercial applications including large package deliveries, residential drone delivery, infrastructure inspections, and more.

Vantis is a State of North Dakota-funded technology infrastructure that uses radar, radios, and other communications equipment on towers distributed throughout the state to provide command, control, and situational awareness to UAS pilots flying aircraft within the network’s coverage area. With Vantis, UAS pilots can see and avoid obstacles and fly safely at a distance – which means commercial UAS flights that are economically feasible and scalable to the size of business.

“North Dakota continues to be the nation’s proving ground for the testing, training and commercialization of unmanned aircraft systems, and this partnership with Thales to build out the first-of-its-kind Vantis statewide network will help cement our state’s reputation as a UAS leader,” said North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority. “Our state’s nearly $50 million investment in this groundbreaking technology is attracting companies, jobs and entrepreneurs and diversifying our economy for the benefit of all North Dakotans.”

Thales will deploy new communications and surveillance infrastructure in phases across the state. This infrastructure will be supported by a Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) that uses the State of North Dakota’s fiber optic telecommunications network along with robust digital services deployed on cloud-based infrastructure to support operational resilience.

While the FAA has to grant approvals to fly beyond visual line of sight currently, as the Vantis network is built out and proven any operator flying on the network will be able to get approvals to “facilitate true BVLOS flights – something that does not exist at this scale anywhere in the country,” says the press release.

“BVLOS operations are the greatest economic driver for sustained commercial UAS use-cases and, until now, there hasn’t been any common, or shared-use, infrastructure to support routine BVLOS operations,” said Todd Donovan, Vice President, Airspace Mobility Solutions, Americas, Thales. “Ultimately, the approach for unmanned systems with Vantis in North Dakota will likely shape how we approach UAS integration more broadly.”

“BVLOS flights are the future of UAS. They are how we achieve repeatable, scalable, economically viable commercial UAS services,” said Trevor Woods, interim executive director of NPUASTS. “Vantis, through our partnership with Thales USA, is making that future a reality. We’re building the blueprint for commercial BVLOS flights across the country.”

Don’t miss the October 13 Dawn of Drones Podcast, live from the UAS Summit in Grand Forks ND and featuring Andy Armacost, University of North Dakota President.