Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., in partnership with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, has announced a $33 million investment in the state’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.
As proposed by the governor late last year, the majority of the funding will be used to build out infrastructure to support beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations across North Dakota.
“With these significant investments, North Dakota has once again sent a loud and clear signal that we are America’s premier proving grounds for UAS research, testing and commercialization,” Burgum says.
According to the Department of Commerce, the statewide BVLOS network will enable UAS efficiencies for state agencies, local communities and commercial sectors, including precision agriculture and utility inspections. It will supply infrastructure for the command and control of UAS, as well as surveillance equipment.
“We’ve got plenty of sky – we’ve got plenty capacity to grow this industry,” notes James K. Leiman, director of North Dakota Economic Development and Finance. “We’re just very excited to be at the forefront of the nation’s evolution toward unmanned systems use.”
Drone stakeholders within the state, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, will work with federal agencies to ensure regulatory compliance. The $33 million investment includes $28 million for statewide BVLOS infrastructure, $3 million to upgrade infrastructure at the Grand Sky business development park and $2 million to support operations at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site.
“Adding capabilities like a statewide BVLOS network will bring more UAS opportunities to North Dakota for both commercial and testing,” says Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. “We look forward to working closely with private industry and North Dakota stakeholders to keep us leaning into the future of UAS.”
With this new commitment, North Dakota will have invested approximately $77 million to advance drone research and development within the state.
“Come here, fly here, operate here, test here, evaluate here and grow your company here,” Leiman adds. “If you have a military application, we have the Grand Sky Park. If you have a commercial or military or homeland security application, you can work with our people at the test site. If you have needs for research or commercialization of intellectual property, we have a very stellar team at both North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, including the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems.”