North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley today addressed leaders in government, aviation, business and military at the 2016 UAS Summit and Expo in Grand Forks.
“Growing and diversifying the UAS industry in North Dakota remains a top priority for our leaders in government, aviation and business, and those efforts have already produced significant results and exciting opportunities for our state,” Wrigley said. “This summit serves as a valuable forum for showcasing the strengths and successes of our UAS industry while allowing us to chart a course for future growth by drawing on the vision and innovative ideas of industry experts in North Dakota.”
This year, the summit will feature presentations, tours and insight on commercial UAV manufacturing and distribution, UAS technology offerings, regulatory updates, business case models, commercial uses, payload offerings and other topics impacting the commercial UAS industry.
In May 2013, Governor Jack Dalrymple established the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, chaired by Wrigley, to pursue a national UAS test site designation and to develop a test site that meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification. In December 2013, the FAA selected North Dakota to operate one of only six national UAS test sites. In April 2014, North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site became the nation’s first to be FAA certified as ready to begin the task of integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.
North Dakota has invested more than $36 million to develop the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the Grand Sky UAS Business Park, and to position North Dakota as a national hub for the UAS industry. North Dakota’s test site and other UAS offerings are attracting worldwide business, including major investments by aviation and aerospace giants Northrop Grumman and General Atomics.
Congressman Kevin Cramer praised the partnership between the State of North Dakota and Elbit Systems of America to advance the potential for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in commercial applications.
Cramer gave remarks at the Hillsboro Airport UAS Field Day today highlighting the research underway to use unmanned aircraft to collect digital images of the region’s cropland. The project is a partnership between North Dakota State University and Elbit Systems of America, the American branch of the electronics company based in Israel. Elbit manufactures the Hermes and Skylark UAS aircraft, and its President and CEO Raanan Horowitz spoke about the success of the project and its potential.
“I am pleased Elbit has chosen to partner with North Dakota on this data collection project that will advance UAS use in agriculture applications. As a longtime leader in agriculture and now an emerging international leader in UAS development, North Dakota is an ideal place to conduct these studies. Bringing global partnerships to the breadbasket of the world in the Red River Valley has the potential to find the solutions to feed a hungry world.”
Laura McCarten, regional president of Xcel Energy, spoke about another UAS research project underway this summer at the Hillsboro Airport. Xcel has partnered with the University of North Dakota to research UAS applications for utility infrastructure monitoring.
“While defense contracting and weapons systems are among the emerging fields in UAS development, agriculture crop management and utility infrastructure are other promising commercial applications,” Cramer said.
The Hillsboro Airport UAS Field Day was held in conjunction with the UAS Summit.
Sources: Office of Jack Dalrymple and Office of Kevin Cramer