Drones to help with flood mitigation efforts in North Dakota

Northern Plains UAS Test Site leverages Vantis, Grand Sky in response to flood emergency

UAS flood photo.JPG
Vantis UAS operators inspect the North-End Pedestrian Bridge in Grand Forks, N.D., amidst receding floodwaters in spring 2019. (Photo courtesy of Vantis UAS)

GRAND FORKS — The Northern Plains UAS Test Site near Grand Forks will be supporting statewide emergency response efforts after the governor’s emergency declaration for spring flooding.

The test site will leverage Vantis, the state’s unmanned aircraft system beyond-visual-line-of-site network at the Grand Sky Business Park, to enhance recovery efforts through flood level monitoring, community awareness tools and a 24/7 Mission Network and Operations Center, according to a press release from Gov. Doug Burgum’s office.

As a part of those efforts, drones will be used to monitor flood levels, melt rate and ice jams; images and video footage of drone flights will be made available for the public.

Additionally, a comprehensive flood risk report will soon be available at, which will include up-to-date information about flood risk.

Drone flights will also be coordinated with emergency response personnel for quick access to real-time information, the release said.


The MNOC will provide secure, 24/7 coverage and coordination with emergency response personnel.

“With Vantis, we’re supporting continuity in the state’s emergency response,” Erin Roesler, director of operations and the Vantis program executive, said. “It’s important that we recognize the state has this incredible platform in Vantis that will play an enormous role in the coordination of regional and, someday, state emergency preparedness plans.”

Vantis also was used as a resource for emergency responders last year when snow and ice in western North Dakota damaged utility infrastructure, leaving residents without power. The state used drones to survey electrical infrastructure in rural areas, locate and assess the damage, and help prioritize resources for repairs and recovery.

“As experienced flood fighters, North Dakotans are always looking for new and better solutions to the flooding challenges faced by our citizens and communities, and the state’s significant investment in UAS gives us an innovative tool to help protect people and property,” Burgum said in the release. “Providing real-time perspective and data collection from the skies will help our flood-related efforts on the ground, and we’re grateful to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Vantis, Grand Sky and the MNOC for coordinating and deploying state-of-the-art resources.”

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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