Air Force addresses concerns about UAS invading the airspace
LANGDON, N.D. -- In about three years, unmanned aircraft from Grand Forks Air Force Base will start flying high above the clouds over eastern North Dakota, some 6,000 to 20,000 feet above the towns of Langdon, Cando, New Rockford, Carrington and ...
LANGDON, N.D. -- In about three years, unmanned aircraft from Grand Forks Air Force Base will start flying high above the clouds over eastern North Dakota, some 6,000 to 20,000 feet above the towns of Langdon, Cando, New Rockford, Carrington and the rural landscape in between.
The Air Force will be flying Predator and Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Systems, using the airspace to train pilots who will guide the aircraft from the ground miles away.
People in Langdon and other parts of the region -- even pilots flying single-engine crop dusters or other small aircraft -- aren't likely to notice. That's because the Predators and Global Hawks will be flying at altitudes from 6,000 to 20,000 feet above mean sea level.
Wednesday, officials from the air base stopped in Langdon as part of a four-day swing through the region, outlining proposed plans to expand the Air Force's Restricted Air Space in North Dakota and to designate UAS training areas.
Other scoping meetings have been held in Grand Forks and Devils Lake. Another is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. today in Carrington, N.D. The public scoping meetings are part of the Environmental Impact Statement process.
"We're here to inform you, but more importantly, to listen," said Col. John Scorsone, vice commander of Grand Forks Air Force Base. "Our purpose here is to listen."
The more than two dozen people who attended the meeting came for the same reason.
"I came to learn more about it," said Carol Goodman, executive director of the Cavalier County Job Development Authority.
They learned that the UAS aircraft will fly overhead only occasionally, and the air space will be restricted only when training missions are in progress.
The Predator, a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS used for surveillance and reconnaissance, will make two training flights -- or sorties -- daily, Monday through Friday, and four sorties one weekend per month.
The Predator will be flown by pilots at the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Air Wing in Fargo.
The Global Hawk, a long-endurance aircraft that can fly at altitudes up to 60,000 feet, will make one training flight daily, Monday through Friday.
The plan calls for expanding two restricted air space areas:
- The northern region would extend from about Osnabrock and Michigan, N.D., on the east to a few miles past Rugby on the west, the Canadian border on the north and roughly following U.S. Highway 2 on the south. The proposed boundary is just north of the city of Devils Lake.
- The southern proposed restricted air space region encompasses an existing restricted area at Camp Grafton South, extending from south and east of Cooperstown, N.D., through much of Foster, Eddy, Wells, Benson and Sheridan counties.
"A lot of general aviation will be below that 6,000-foot level," said Gerald Evans, of the Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. "Crop dusters fly so low, there will be little, if any impact."
Evans' oldest son, Jason Evans, is a tanker pilot stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Part of the EIS process is learning what regular flights are made through the air space -- commercial airliners in the United States and from Canada, medical helicopters and planes flying to large regional medical centers, commercial cargo planes, etc.
"We're trying to make sure we don't miss anything," the elder Evans said. "We want to minimize our footprint, trying to be good community neighbors."
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