UND’s Decision on UAS Engineering Research Postponed

A UND committee is holding off on approving an unmanned aircraft systems research project that would explore the potential for evaluating engineering projects from the air in Walsh County.

Members of the university’s UAS Research Compliance Committee want answers to questions they had regarding a project application submitted by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and KLJ Engineering.

The test site works with companies to research potential uses of unmanned aircraft and their integration into commercial airspace.

As proposed, test site and KLJ personnel would fly two types of unmanned aircraft over bridge, water drainage and flood diversion projects and record images of the sites.

“The test site has a client that wants to fly UAS to evaluate their use in inspecting engineering projects ” said Chris Theisen, director of research, development, test and evaluation for the test site. “Much of this is a data collection effort to gather sensor imagery.”

The image data would be used to develop engineering software tools, according to the research application. The tools would be used to plan and evaluate engineering projects.

While researchers are required by the committee to post signs alerting the public of unmanned flights, committee members wanted to be sure landowners would be aware the aircraft could be flying over their property.

Concerns were raised over how to reach landowners and any potential renters prior to flights.

“I think it’s going to be very important to get the actual landowner versus the apparent landholder to make the commitment,” committee member Kim Porter said.

A letter sent through certified mail was suggested. The letter could give landowners the option to refuse to allow flights over their land and ask them to notify tenants renting the land. It was unknown during the meeting how many property owners would need to be notified.

The committee also had questions regarding data storage and wanted more specific criteria spelled out for KLJ personnel who would have access to the imagery collected by the aircraft.

If approved, research flights would take place from July to August. The committee will pick up discussion on the application at its July 1 meeting.

 Source: Prairie Business

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