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Lt. Governor Wrigley Outlines the State of the UAS Industry in North Dakota at Annual Summit
Post Date: Sep 21 2015

By ND Governor's Office
Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley today kicked off the 2015 UAS Summit and Expo in Grand Forks, welcoming leaders in aviation, business, and military to the 9th annual, three-day event. The summit will showcase the evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) while updating attendees on the current state of the commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry.
 
“We are at the center of technological advancement in the unmanned aerial systems industry,” Wrigley said. “The stakeholders in North Dakota remain committed to creating an environment where private enterprise, public and private research organizations, and educational institutions can aggressively pursue new and exciting opportunities in the unmanned aerial systems industry.”
 
This year, the UAS Summit and Expo aims to combine the perspective of regional UAS personnel with the regulatory insight of national UAV entities, offering attendees a glimpse into the commercial realities and major economic opportunities present in North Dakota.
 
Since 2013, under Dalrymple’s leadership, North Dakota has invested more than $30 million to establish a national UAS test site, to establish the Grand Sky UAS business and aviation park, and to advance North Dakota’s position as a hub for the nation’s growing UAS industry.
 
Dalrymple established the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Authority in May 2013.  The six-member authority, chaired by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, is charged with overseeing the operations of North Dakota’s UAS test site, including the development of public safety protocols, privacy safeguards, and UAS research and development opportunities. The authority has worked to develop a national UAS test proposal, to earn a test site designation, and to develop a test site operation that meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.
 
The FAA selected North Dakota to operate one of only six national UAS test sites in December 2013, citing that North Dakota had a strong proposal, a stellar national standing in aviation and aerospace sciences, and university research and development capabilities, along with a diverse climate and open airspace. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site was also the nation’s first to be FAA certified in April 2014 as ready to begin the work of integrating UAS into the national airspace.
 
In February 2015, the U.S. Air Force and Grand Forks County officials signed an enhanced use lease agreement, paving the way for the development of the Grand Sky UAS Business and Technology Park. Northrop Grumman Corporation became Grand Sky’s anchor tenant in April 2015. Grand Sky is the first commercial UAS business and aviation park in the U.S. The park is under construction and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for UAS development, testing and training, sensor technology development and data analysis, and management. It capitalizes on the expertise of regional academic institutions such as the University of North Dakota’s UAS Center of Excellence and Northland Community & Technical College’s UAS Maintenance Technician Program. Grand Sky’s facilities are expected to grow to over 1.2 million square feet and accommodate companies, educational institutions, government contractors, and public agencies involved in the UAS sectors.
 
Also in 2015, North Dakota celebrated landing its first UAS manufacturing venture when Wahpeton-based ComDel Innovation and Altavian began manufacturing UAS and UAS components at ComDel’s plant in Wahpeton.
 
The FAA recently approved expanded operations of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to include night flight testing capabilities throughout the state of North Dakota. This authorization, granted under the FAA’s Certification of Authorization (COA) process, allows the industry more efficient access to airspace for collaborative research. The FAA was able to approve this COA application based on maturity and the demonstrated safety and operational processes used by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site.
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