Basin Electric and BisMan Chamber EDC host meeting by Vantis Group

Vantis Group meeting at Basin Electric on Aug. 16.

Basin Electric and BisMan Chamber EDC hosted a meeting of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) which administers Vantis, North Dakota's Unmanned Aircraft Systems beyond visual line-of-site flight system. The meeting was held on Aug. 16 at Basin Electric's Headquarters in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

NPUASTS worked with Montrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, a Basin Electric Class C member headquartered in Williston, North Dakota, to inspect poles and transmission lines after storm damage this spring by leveraging the Vantis system. 

Mark Scheele, a Basin Electric pilot, said the Vantis system could provide a benefit to the cooperative.

Scheele said the current role for drones to avoid collisions is "see-and-avoid," meaning they must be kept within line-of-sight of the operator since there is not a person aboard the drone to watch out for other incoming aircraft. Having to keep the drone within line-of-sight limits the range a drone can fly and therefore how a drone can be used. 

The Vantis system would satisfy the see-and-avoid rules by allowing the operator to see the drone and any conflicting aircraft, as well as maneuver to avoid collisions. 

"It opens up all kinds of useful cases for drones that are not possible with the current line-of-sight rule," Scheele said. "Vantis, if successful, will bring value across many industries throughout the state of North Dakota and eventually the nation. The system is the first of its kind."

North Dakota has many miles of power lines and pipeline that are currently inspected with drones.

"Some of our lines run through tough terrain, so having the option to fly some or all of our lines with drones could provide both cost and safety benefits," Scheele said. "It is going to take time for the technology to develop to the point where this is possible, but meetings like this one help us stay up to speed on what's happening so we can be ready to take advantage of this type of system when it develops."

The NPUASTS is one of seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test sites in the nation. Vantis is administered by NPUASTS and was created by North Dakota with an initial investment in 2019.