North Dakota lawmakers Wednesday called a five-year reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration a win for the state's drone industry and airports.
If the president signs the bill, it will allow federal agencies to research whether unmanned aircrafts can share spectrum frequencies with manned aircrafts, it will authorize testing sites for another five years and it will let the U.S. Department of Homeland Security research emerging threats from foreign drones.
"We've continued to stress to administration officials, including during the recent visits of the Homeland Security and Air Force secretaries, that North Dakota is uniquely positioned to develop this technology," said U.S. Sen John Hoeven, R-N.D. "We will continue to advance this and other priorities to build our leadership in this dynamic and growing sector."
U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., issued a similar statement after the House approved the bill Sept. 26, calling the bill a "victory for our nation's aviation industry."
"By increasing access to spectrum," Cramer said, "we will see greater advancements in this already emerging industry." Both he and Hoeven helped author legislation regarding spectrum use.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., praised the bill for also preserving the Essential Air Service, or EAS, a program ensuring small U.S. communities have access to nationally certified airports.
"The bill gives long-term certainty to our airports and the communities they serve and will make sure access to air service is protected across our state," Heitkamp said. "I've fought to protect EAS from the administration's proposals to eliminate it, and this bill preserves funding that will continue to support air service to rural communities across the state."