Hoeven: New UND Building Strengthens Grand Forks Region as UAS Leader, Embodies Commitment to the Future

Senator Continues Work to Build Region into Premier Northern Hub for UAS

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – At a groundbreaking ceremony today, Senator John Hoeven drove home the significance of the University of North Dakota’s new Aerospace and UAS Research, Training and Education Building, which he said will strengthen North Dakota’s position as a national hub for research, development, testing, operation and the commercialization in unmanned aerial technologies.

“UND Aerospace is already the recognized national leader in manned aviation, and now we’re working to make it the undisputed leader in unmanned aviation,” Hoeven said. “The Aerospace and UAS Research, Training and Education Building we broke ground for today represents a big step forward in doing that. That’s what will attract world-class companies like Northrop Grumman and others to cluster here in Grand Forks, churning out ideas, products and skillfully trained UAS operators for the nation.”

The senator has worked, both as governor and now as U.S. Senator, with the state’s UAS community for more than a decade to establish North Dakota’s leadership in UAS technologies and to grow UAS operations in the Grand Forks region. In fact, the UAS mission became a necessity in the 2005 Base Realignment and closure (BRAC) round in which the Grand Forks Air Force Base lost its tanker mission and needed a mission to replace it. It was then that Hoeven began the push to secure the UAS mission for Grand Forks and establish the community as a leader in the field.

Following BRAC, in 2006 Hoeven helped to establish the Center or Excellence for UAS Research, Education and Training, which will be a major tenant of the new research building. The North Dakota Centers of Excellence Program, initiated by then Governor Hoeven, awarded the center $2.5 million, which the center matched and leveraged to $15.8 million in federal and private-sector funding.

FAA Designation as UAS Integration Test Site

The senator is now leading the effort in the Senate to help build Grand Forks into the premier northern hub for UAS development in the nation. Hoeven introduced language to the FAA Reauthorization bill passed by Congress in 2012 directing the FAA to establish test sites across the country to integrate UAS into the National Airspace. Hoeven’s amendment instructed the FAA Administrator to consider factors including geographical and climatic diversity as well as the location of ground infrastructure in selecting the sites. In December, Grand Forks was designated one of six national test sites.

Helping to Build Grand Sky Tech Park

Hoeven has also led the effort 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 Air Force has indicated that upon completion of agreements with the developer and the county’s preferred anchor tenant, Northrop Grumman, it will sign the final lease agreement.

Securing an anchor tenant for the park was key to the project. In 2012, Hoeven 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 Base Realignment Impact Committee, UND, the UND Aerospace Foundation and Northland Aerospace Foundation.

As a result, Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s premier aerospace and defense technology companies, committed 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.

UAS Appropriations

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is in a strong position to support UAS nationally and in North Dakota. In Fiscal Year 2014, the senator worked to secure more than $115 million in funding for UAS research, training, procurement and other activities.

Hoeven is also working to include provisions in the Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation Appropriation Bill to support UAS integration at Grand Forks and at test sites across the country. The bill includes Hoeven-introduced language to encourage FAA to study how the Air Force flies multiple aircraft at the same time, which should help streamline operations at GFAFB and help ensure that multiple UAS and manned aircraft can fly safely together.

The bill also includes language to encourage FAA to use UAS test sites to accelerate the integration of small UAS into the national airspace for applications like evaluating crops in the field, inspecting power lines and Amazon’s proposed package delivery. Total UAS funding for research, training, development and other activities in FY 2015 is more than $101 million included in the Defense; Homeland Security; and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills.