Hoeven Recruits Business for Grand Sky at Google Unmanned Aerial Systems Airspace Seminar

Senator Outlines Benefits of Grand Forks Region for the UAS Industry at Google UAS Seminar

WASHINGTON – At the Google Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Airspace Seminar, Senator John Hoeven pitched Grand Forks County’s new business and technology park, Grand Sky, as an up and coming hub for unmanned aerial systems technology. With companies like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics breaking ground, and FlightSafety International looking closely at the park, Grand Forks is building a cluster of UAS businesses and training facilities that will create new synergies in the field, Hoeven told the audience of technology business leaders from around the world.

Hoeven has been instrumental in developing Grand Sky, and has worked with UAS leaders to promote safe UAS integration, provide flexibility to advance the industry and effectively meet the needs of the American people.

“We’re actively recruiting companies to come to Grand Forks to be part of our Grand Sky technology park,” Hoeven said. “Google sponsored a conference here in D.C. and we made the pitch that if they want to be part of the future of aviation they should come to Grand Sky in Grand Forks. UAS truly is one of the most innovative sectors of our economy today, one that also holds huge economic potential for our state and nation. The Grand Forks region has the perfect mix of resources to be a premier UAS hub in our nation, and I look forward to continuing to advance its role in this exciting industry.”

During his remarks, Senator Hoeven recognized Bob Becklund, director of the Northern Plains UAS test site in North Dakota, who is facilitating operations that are critical to the future of UAS integration into the national airspace. Hoeven also recognized Tom Swoyer and Jeff Donahoe, who lead the development of the Grand Sky business and technology park.

Through his various roles in the U.S. Senate, including as a member of Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven continues pursuing opportunities to support and expand the UAS community, including:

  • Grand Sky Technology Park: Hoeven has worked closely with the Air Force and community leaders in the Grand Forks area to establish the Grand Sky technology park on leased property at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Grand Sky brings together leading industry leaders, including Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, the Air Force, and partnerships with North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS test site and the Center of Excellence, to advance UAS integration, technology and training.
  • Accelerating airspace integration for UAS: In April, Hoeven and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation that sets interim operating guidelines for small commercial UAS while providing the FAA with the flexibility to make changes before it finalizes those rules. The legislation also positions the test sites, including Grand Forks, to help ensure small UAS operations are conducted safely under its interim operating guidelines.
  • Advancing critical UAS-related technology: In May, the UAS Center of Excellence, led by the University of North Dakota (UND), was selected to serve as an incubator for UAS ideas and technologies. The Center’s research will allow for seamless transition from the research lab to operational testing. The center was established through $5 million approved in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 funding bill, and Hoeven will continue working through the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure future funds. The FY2016 Transportation Appropriations bill, approved by committee this June, includes an additional $5 million for the center.

Further, the senator has held meetings with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to discuss the agency’s research into UAS technology allowing for integration into the national airspace and the development of an unmanned traffic management system. He reported that NASA has begun to include the UAS test sites in its research, and he will continue to support this collaboration moving forward.

Hoeven also highlighted private innovations occurring in North Dakota that dovetail with NASA’s research, including the Extended Range and Data (XRD) technology developed by Botlink, LLC, in Fargo. The XRD hardware, coupled with Botlink’s software application, allows for real-time data processing, imaging, fully-automated drone control, ADS-B traffic advisories, airspace alerts and other information at extended ranges, including beyond line-of-sight.