UND collaboration or UND competition?

UAS academy SkySkopes opens academy in Grand Forks

Andre Marquis Washington
, News Writer

The city of Grand Forks has become a paradise for the UAS industry. 

Grand Forks is home of the United States first commercial UAS business and aviation park, and will host the 12th annual UAS Summit and Expo, an event that  attracts UAS experts from all over the world. 

But as with any soils of paradise, crowds come and seed themselves and eventually blossom into buds of competition. 

Is it UND collaboration or is it UND competition? 

The University of North Dakota (UND) has been one of the country’s leading providers of UAS education. Now welcome to the UAS industry, SkySkopes, a professional UAS flight operations company located out of Grand Forks. 

SkySkopes is relatively new to the UAS scene but has set the tone for professional UAS flight operations throughout the Northern Plains. 

SkySkopes is the brainchild of UND graduate Matt Dunlevy who currently serves as SkySkopes’ CEO and president. 

“SkySkopes is a complement to UND and UND UAS departments,” Dunlevy said. 

So much of a complement that SkySkopes launched in 2017 its very own SkySkopes Academy with the intention to deliver private UAS education in a more effective and engaging manner. 

“SkySkopes Academy is a spinoff of UND’s  four year UAS program, and offers in-person, industry-specific, tailored UAS training. SkySkopes Academy is not at all in competition with UND,” Dunlevy said. 

It’s not competition until it is competition. 

With declining enrollment numbers for traditional four-year public universities all over the United States and the rapidly increasing number of students seeking more industry-specific vocational private programs, SkySkopes Academy could blossom into something much more than just a complementary program to UND. 

“We try to funnel undergraduates and graduates to UND through our online high school level courses and in-person certificate training programs,” Dunlevy said. 

But what happens when that funnel bottlenecks?  What happens when UAS students eventually figure out that in-person, industry-specific, tailored UAS training is all they need to ensure and enhance a productive career in the UAS industry?  Why would prospective UAS student choose SkySkopes over UND or UND over SkySkopes? 

“UND offers a broader approach to UAS education, and SkySkopes Academy is more specifically focused, typically dealing with Part 107 of the UAS industry,” Interim Executive Director of RIAS Mark Askelson said. 

SkySkopes Academy is a private company that garners most of its resources from investors. 

UND is a public university and receives a great deal of government support and appropriations, so UND’s UAS program has much deeper pockets than SkySkopes Academy. 

However, looking at the recent circumstance of UND budget cuts due to unprecedented slashes in government appropriations to institutions of higher education, no one really knows just how deep or shallow that pocket really is. 

Whether SkySkopes Academy is in collaboration or competition with UND’s UAS program, “at the end of the day, everyone needs to be self-sustainable, financially,” Dunlevy said. 

As the UAS industry continues to develop and outgrow the manned aircraft industry, pilots for both unmanned and manned aircrafts will be in high demand. 

Maybe SkySkopes Academy’s approach to UAS training will set an even larger tone not just for the UAS industry but also for higher education. 

Andrė Marquis Washington is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]