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L3Harris and Vantis pave the way for BVLOS operations in North Dakota

L3Harris Technologies recently achieved the first successful series of fully integrated system tests with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights for North Dakota’s Vantis unmanned aircraft system (UAS) BVLOS network. Using the integrated radio control and aircraft tracking systems deployed in Williston, N.D. our collaborative test and pilot team, including Phoenix Air Unmanned, TrainND and Capital Sciences, successfully conducted 37 flights beyond visual range spanning 9 flight hours with an UAS. The longest flight beyond visual range during the testing flew nearly four miles from the pilot with seamless hand-off of radio control between the deployed sites and continuous low altitude aircraft tracking of the surrounding area.

“Airplanes have flown beyond visual sight for decades. The question is: when will unmanned systems do the same?” stated Jay Kreider, General Manager, Surveillance and Automation Solutions. “Imagine the commercial and military operational opportunities available once we solve this challenge and see guidelines fully regulated.”

Vantis is a first of its kind statewide UAS BVLOS network providing an all-in-one ecosystem for flights beyond visual range for public and private use. L3Harris is supporting the overall deployment for Vantis in partnership with the North Dakota Northern Plains UAS Test Site. As a systems engineering and integration partner, L3Harris is deploying systems and providing innovative proprietary software for the shared network that enables the capability and flexibility to safely conduct a variety of UAS missions without requiring individual users to deploy their own infrastructure.

“Since 2016, L3Harris has worked as an industry research partner with both the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and University of North Dakota to pioneer the concept behind Vantis and support its development into an operational reality,” furthered Jay Kreider,  “Together we crafted and pursued a vision for a single shared network to enable multi-user BVLOS UAS flight.”

By 2018, the network transitioned from North Dakota’s ResearchND program into the L3Harris UAS BVLOS Network (HUBNet) and BVLOS flight tested between Grand Forks and Fargo. The substantial research efforts and investment by L3Harris with the University of North Dakota’s matched support through the ResearchND program pioneered the concept behind Vantis and laid the foundation for North Dakota’s industry leading investment. But what is it that L3Harris provides exactly?

“Our team worked hard to complete system integration and pre-testing ahead of these test flights. Our deployed infrastructure includes command and control radios and both cooperative and non-cooperative surveillance technologies,” stated Kreider. “It’s these systems that detect aircraft that emit self-reporting signals for position and also aircraft that don’t emit any signals at all. We delivered on time and produced great results.”

The infrastructure components are connected together leveraging North Dakota’s existing STAGEnet fiber network, which connects to the Vantis Mission and Network Operations Center in Grand Forks, where the L3Harris Regional Control Station solution and RangeVue™ Pro display software reside. The data is sent to Grand Forks where the network and operations management team in the Vantis Mission and Network Operations Center coordinate users and their BVLOS operations while monitoring network status during missions to ensure continuous safe operations. The July 2021 BVLOS flights are a first for North Dakota’s Vantis and mark the first step towards the network being open to industry at large following successful deployment.

“We’ll continue to partner with Vantis and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to bring the reality of safe flights beyond visual range for all missions to the state of North Dakota,” stated Kreider. “By doing this we’re setting a standard by creating a blueprint for other regional and national BVLOS networks to follow.”

To learn more about L3Harris unmanned systems operations visit here.