Hoeven Hosts Roundtable with North Dakota UAS Leaders to Continue Advancing State's Growing UAS Industry

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today convened a roundtable with North Dakota’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry leaders to continue work to advance the UAS industry in North Dakota. The leaders are working to build Grand Forks into a premier hub for UAS development in the nation. In late December, Grand Forks was designated one of six pilot test sites for integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. The senator introduced language in the 2012 Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill creating the six sites. Hoeven and the leaders discussed work on the site designation as well as progress to develop the Grand Sky complex.

“Grand Forks is leading the nation in development of the UAS industry,” Hoeven said. “Our state is working to integrate UAS into the national airspace, to develop cutting edge technologies at the Grand Sky complex and to educate the next generation of UAS pilots at UND. We are bringing together all the elements to make our state into a premier hub for UAS to spur innovation, boost our economy and create jobs in the Grand Forks region.”

Hoeven was joined by Director of the University of North Dakota (UND) Center for UAS Research, Education and Training Al Palmer, Grand Forks County Commissioner John Schmisek, Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board of Directors Secretary Bill Lee, UND Center of Innovation Director Bruce Gjovig, Grand Forks City Councilman Dana Sande, Grand Forks County Administrator Ed Nierode, Grand Forks Region EDC President and CEO Klaus Thiessen, UND Associate Vice President Michael Moore, Grand Forks Regional EDC UAS Sector Senior Manager Terry Sando, Doug McDonald and Tom Kenville with the Unmanned Applications Institute (UAI), 319th Airspace Manager Jeff Slivkoff, Grand Forks Air Force Base Deputy Commander Colonel Christopher Mann, 69th Reconnaissance Group Commander Colonel Lawrence Spinetta, and Ralph Kingsbury of Kingsbury Applied Economics.

Both as governor and now as U.S. Senator, Hoeven has worked with the state’s UAS community to establish and maintain North Dakota’s leadership in UAS technologies and to grow UAS operations in the Grand Forks region. The Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority is now going through steps to finalize the test site selection and secure the FAA Certificates of Authorization, which allow UAS to be operated in designated airspace. The final environmental impact study is being performed before the official lease is signed. The county is finalizing the negotiations with Northrup Grumman to be the anchor tenant. Some of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority members are currently in Washington meeting with FAA officials regarding North Dakota’s test site. The agency has six months to get the first of the six sites operational.

Work is already underway to recruit high-tech businesses for the air base’s new UAS technology park. Hoeven worked to help Grand Forks County secure an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with the U.S. Air Force for the development of Grand Sky, a cutting-edge UAS technology and business park the county plans to build on approximately 217 acres at Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB). The county and Air Force have already signed an intent to lease.

Last year, the senator brought senior Northrop Grumman officials, including Tom Vice, Northrop Grumman’s Corporate VP and President of Aerospace Systems, to Grand Forks to see firsthand the tremendous synergies that are developing between Grand Forks BRIC, UND, the UND Aerospace Foundation and Northland Aerospace Foundation. He also worked to get Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s premier aerospace and defense technology companies, to commit to be the park’s first tenant. Northrop Grumman makes the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is operated by the Air Combat Command unit at GFAFB.