Hoeven: Thread Awarded $1.2 Million for UAS Research & Development to Enhance Grand Forks AFB Security

Senator Worked to Fund SBIR Program, Bring AFWERX Projects to North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that Thread, formerly known as Airtonomy, a North Dakota technology startup, has received a $1.2 million award under the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop an unmanned aerial system (UAS) solution that willenhance perimeter security at the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB). The award, which is being made by AFWERX, an arm of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), will help ensure the 5,773-acre base is protected against threats, intrusions and breaches, while freeing up resources to address additional security concerns. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to advance the project, having:

  • Secured funding for the Air Force SBIR program in annual appropriations legislation passed by Congress in March 2022.
  • Met with Col. Nathan Diller, Director of AFWERX, at the UAS Summit in Grand Forks earlier this year to make the case for North Dakota as an ideal location for the agency’s projects. 

“This project is all about enhancing the mission of the 319 Security Forces Squadron at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, improving the safety of their working conditions and streamlining their operations,” said Senator Hoeven. “By partnering AFWERX with Thread and utilizing this region’s UAS expertise, we’re working to ensure this critical base is secure against threats and can continue to support the unmanned ISR missions that our warfighters depend on.” 

“The North Dakota UAS ecosystem, long supported by Senator Hoeven, is ripe for innovation, as a local technology startup, the opportunity to expand beyond energy and utility sectors to serve the nation and effect meaningful change is extraordinary” said Dr. Joshua Riedy, Founder and CEO of Thread.

Currently, the 319 Security Forces Squadron (319 SFS) at GFAFB deploys teams to manually patrol the base’s 13-mile perimeter, including in remote sections of the base and during harsh weather conditions. This approach is time-consuming and takes attention away from other force protection activities of higher concern. Accordingly, Thread will develop an autonomous flight routine for the base’s security forces, which will better enable the 319 SFS to monitor the base perimeter, while improving the safety of the squadron members.