Israeli company seeks North Dakota launch site for crop-surveying drone
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Israeli company seeks North Dakota launch site for crop-surveying drone

Elbit Systems hoping to rent hanger space at Casselton Regional Airport, intends to sell information gathered from flights to farmers

An Israeli-built Elbit Systems Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft is towed out of a hangar at the Hillsboro, ND airport on Friday, May 20, 2016, before its first flight to collect agriculture data. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)
An Israeli-built Elbit Systems Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft is towed out of a hangar at the Hillsboro, ND airport on Friday, May 20, 2016, before its first flight to collect agriculture data. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

CASSELTON, North Dakota — An international defense and electronics company wants to launch a crop-surveying drone from the Casselton Regional Airport.

Airport Authority chairman Bob Miller tells KFGO the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, would gather crop information across the Upper Midwest that would be analyzed and sold to farmers.

Elbit wants to lease hangar space for the large drone it flies, and install equipment it needs to fly it. The FAA requires a chase plane to provide visual supervision when the drone flies. Lease costs are still being negotiated.

The company would have nine employees based in Casselton during the months the flights are made.

Elbit began testing use of its Hermes 450 drone for agricultural imaging in 2016. Flights were made from Hillsboro airport. KFGO News reported that Elbit is seeking a new base for the drone due to construction work at Hillsboro.

North Dakota is believed to be the only state qualified to fly the aircraft because it has clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones at higher altitudes. The FAA in 2013 selected North Dakota as one of six drone test sites in the US and has since approved the site to fly above the current 200-foot blanket for most of the country.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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