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ND Leaders Visit Israel for Trade Mission, Meet with Major Unmanned Aircraft Manufacturer
Post Date: Feb 01 2016

By Grand Forks Herald
North Dakota leaders flew to the Middle East last week for a trade mission that included the discussion of a large-scale research project involving unmanned aircraft.

Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, accompanied by 22 others, flew to Israel and Egypt to strengthen relationships with government and business leaders located there in several industries, including unmanned aircraft systems.

Last week's trip marks the first North Dakota trade mission to Israel and the second to Egypt.

Wrigley and university representatives met with Elbit Systems, an Israeli unmanned aircraft manufacturer that is partnering with UND and North Dakota State University to fly a large-scale research project this summer near Hillsboro, N.D.

The company's Hermes 450 aircraft will be used to collect agricultural data on chemically resistant weeds, crop stands, nutrient deficiencies and other topics. The 20-foot gas-powered aircraft can fly for up to 20 hours, much longer than smaller electrical devices used in agricultural research.

"A large-scale UAS operation allows more agricultural data to be collected faster and at altitudes up to 8,000 feet," Wrigley said in a statement. "We're making important strides in the UAS and precision ag sectors in North Dakota, as well as supplying data to the Federal Aviation Administration in an effort to allow commercial UAS to operate simultaneously with manned aircraft in the future."

As the FAA requires all unmanned aircraft flights to be within the line of sight of an observer, a chase plane will be used to keep an eye on the Hermes from the air.

The eight-week project will be overseen by staff from NDSU and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, which is headquartered at UND.

In addition to Elbit's aircraft, a smaller device will be flown to allow researchers to compare images collected by both systems, NDSU Ag Machine Systems Specialist John Nowatzki told the Herald last month.

Elbit received a $357,546 grant from the North Dakota Department of Commerce's Research ND grant program for the project. With the required match from the company, the total funding for the project comes to $715,092.

The Research ND program has distributed $2.9 million in grant funding to UAS-related research projects since its inception in 2013.

ND Leaders Visit Israel for Trade Mission, Meet with Major Unmanned Aircraft Manufacturer - Grand Forks Herald
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