Expansion for Northern Plains UAS Test Site

The Northern Plains UAS Test site announced last Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the site to test unmanned aircraft up to an altitude of 400 feet across the US.

The site is already authorized to test unmanned aircraft up to 1200 feet within North Dakota and has requested authorization to fly up to 3000 feet with heavier and faster aircraft.

This is an important step for many reasons in the Grand Forks. UND was the first university in the country to offer a bachelors degree in Unmanned Aircraft Aerial Systems in 2009, and the development of test sites and other technologies has led to many exciting opportunities for UND graduates in the program. The continuing growth of the UAS program adds to the already respected reputation of the university’s aviation program.

The Northern Plains Test site is partnered with Grand Sky Technology Park, whose ceremonial ground-breaking took place earlier this month. The facility will cost close to $300 million and will host a variety of UAS-related businesses. Northrop Gruman, which manufactures the Global Hawk aircraft, is the first tenant that will break ground at Grand Sky next month. The facility is in talks with several other businesses to rent out space on the 217-acre property.

Grand Sky tenants will be able to work closely with UND to match graduates with careers in the rapidly growing field. The development of North Dakota as a home for this technology will be important as UAS technology continues to be applied to many different fields, including agriculture, surveying, and military purposes.

During the Grand Sky groundbreaking, Governor Jack Dalrymple stated, “North Dakota is on the cutting edge of the UAS industry and we’re committed to developing our expertise and assets into a national hub for UAS research, development, testing, training and operations.”

Grand Sky Technology park is leveraging $34 million in state money to assist in the construction of the project. The land on which the aviation park is being constructed is rented by Grand Sky from Grand Forks County, who is in turn renting the land from the Grand Forks Air Force base.

The park is adjacent to the base and construction of a direct runway connection between the two is planned.

Sean Cleary is a News Editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]