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NDSU part of team vying for unmanned aerial systems test site

Published: 20 September 2013

North Dakota unmanned aerial systems leaders and NDSU representatives met in Washington, D.C., on Thurs., Sept. 19 to attend the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus Science and Technology Fair in the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer.

During the Unmanned Systems Caucus Fair, the delegation is building awareness of North Dakota’s efforts to be chosen as one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites tasked to assist the administration to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the same airspace as manned vehicles.

North Dakota’s two major research universities, including NDSU, are expected to play key roles as the state competes to become one of six FAA test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles and systems to be named by the end of the year. NDSU expertise in this research area includes transportation, agriculture, electronics, coatings and computational science.

North Dakota is showcasing its unmanned aerial systems capabilities alongside other organizations, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Northrup Grumman, General Atomics and NASA, based on efforts coordinated by US Congressman Kevin Cramer.

North Dakota has created the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, led by its Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley. The state has appropriated $5 million to pursue and develop a national unmanned aerial systems test site, $4 million of which is operational funding contingent on FAA selection of a North Dakota test site.

Robert Becklund, recently appointed as the executive director of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, is currently overseeing the state’s unmanned aerial systems efforts and is the primary contact with the FAA. 

“Here in North Dakota, we have all the elements needed to assist the FAA,” said Becklund. “We have low population density, strong UAS research through our team members at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, unequalled aviation training and expertise at the UND’s Aerospace Program, and plenty of UAS expertise thanks to the local and deployed flight activity of UND and the Office of the Adjutant General.”

The FAA, which received 25 proposals from around the nation, is scheduled to make an announcement in December.

North Dakota’s Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority membership includes unmanned aerial systems experts from the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences – University of North Dakota; the Office of Research, Creative Activities, and Technology Transfer – NDSU; the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; and North Dakota’s Office of the Adjutant General.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013